“Powerful . . . As haunting a postapocalyptic universe as Cormac McCarthy [created] in The Road, and as devastating a look as the fallout that national events have on an American family as Philip Roth did in The Plot Against America. . . . Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, American War, is an unlikely mash-up of unsparing war reporting and plot elements familiar to readers of the recent young-adult dystopian series The Hunger Games and Divergent.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.
Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In the near future, fossil fuel is outlawed, the seas rise catastrophically, and the U.S. North and South are engaged in bloody conflict. American War is a chilling allegory of nationalism and blood thirst, as seen through the eyes of Sarat, an orphaned Louisiana-born girl who becomes radicalized in a refugee camp in Tennessee. Omar El Akkad writes Sarat convincingly from the ages of six to middle age, covering a wide swath of emotional ground in this gripping dystopian novel. An Egyptian-born investigative journalist, El Akkad skillfully explores how loyalty, power, and revenge motivate those affected by war.
El Akkad's debut novel transports us to a terrifyingly plausible future in which the clash between red states and blue has become deadly and the president has been murdered over a contentious fossil fuels bill. In 2074, Sarah T. Chestnut called Sarat comes of age in the neutral state of Louisiana, where she is slowly drawn into the conflict after the death of her father, performing guerrilla operations for the South. Soon she is enmeshed in a resistance movement masterminded by the Dixie militants operating along the Tennessee River, venturing into quarantined South Carolina battlegrounds and Georgia shantytowns alongside spies, assassins, and revolutionaries, like the commanding Adam Bragg and his Salt Lake Boys. Sarat finds brief happiness with Layla, a displaced bar owner from Valdosta, Georgia, but this is only the beginning of Sarat's war, as she is interred in the nightmarish Camp Saturday before being exiled in the wake of a devastating plague. Now an old and broken woman, Sarat must seek redemption in the wreckage of the New World. Part family chronicle, part apocalyptic fable, American War is a vivid narrative of a country collapsing in on itself, where political loyalties hardly matter given the ferocity of both sides and the unrelenting violence that swallows whole bloodlines and erodes any capacity for mercy or reason. This is a very dark read; El Akkad creates a world all too familiar in its grisly realism.
Customer ReviewsSee All
It’s been a few months since I’ve read this book, but as someone who usually avoids books about war, I’m really glad I read this one. It is definitely more of a speculative fiction with decent commentary about race and class. Overall, extremely enjoyable and thoughtful.
Wow very thought provoking,
The book’s core premise of environmental disruption is ominously plausible.
However, the storyline is fundamental flawed.
The author completely misses on the ethnic composition of his apocalyptic South. African Americans comprise a vast percentage of Southerners. They are essentially nonexistent in this book, with no explanation as to why. This casts a pall of illogic over the entire book.