One of the things I like about being in a book club is reading books that I normally wouldn’t pick out. This month, the PM Book Club discussed American War by Omar El Akkad, and I would not have read it if it weren’t for the fabulous book club members who suggested it. Thank you!
American War takes readers 57 years into the future where the second American Civil War is being fought over climate change. Global warming has wreaked havoc on the country, and the South refuses to stop using fossil fuels while the North demands that they use green energies. Plus, there’s a deadly disease in South Carolina that makes people comatose so the entire state is under quarantine.
Growing up, Sarat Chestnut and her family are the victims of war including suicide bombings, civilian massacres, and unmanned drones periodically dropping from explosives from the sky. At an impressionable age, Sarat was recruited by a functionary who groomed her to be an instrument of war. However, at some point, it no longer matters to Sarat who wins because her rage and need for vengeance fuels her to do unimaginable things.
For the most part, our group liked American War, and one of the things from the book that stood out to the group was Sarat’s character. Measuring over six feet tall, Sarat is a force to be reckoned with. She’s strong, self-sufficient, and determined, and when she seeks revenge, we were all cheering for her. We also liked how the action-packed story encourages readers to question our current events and our society.
If you’ve read American War and are looking for something similar, there are two books that kept coming to mind for me while reading El Akkad’s debut novel – The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy and My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent.
Like American War, Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands is set in St. Louis, Missouri at a time when climate change has destroyed most of the Earth’s atmosphere, heating up the world to almost unbearable conditions. The city, known as the “Sanctuary,” is surrounded by walls and is guarded around the clock from potential attack, but what lies beyond? After promises of rain, food, and hope lie in the northwest part of the country, a group travels the dead lands following Lewis and Clark’s journey to Oregon only this time there’s mutant bats and giant spiders to contend with.
Like Sarat, the protagonist in American War, Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling follows Turtle, another strong, resilient female protagonist. While living off the grid, Turtle struggles in school, but her relationship with the natural world is seamless. She has trained as a marksman at a young age, and she can shoot a gun like no other. She lives with Martin, her abusive father who helps shape Turtle as a character, and you’ll quickly realize that Turtle is a survivor through and through. As Turtle comes to age, she begins to cross back and forth over the fine line of love and hate for her father, forcing her to make impossible decisions.
Hayley Johnson, Community and Adult Services Librarian