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American War

American War

Blurb

It is 2074 and a second American Civil War has broken out between the Northern and Southern states of America, the (Blues) and the (Reds.)

Sarat Chestnut is six and lives with her family in a corrugated container in St James, Louisiana. She spends her days playing in the river and on it’s muddy banks with her twin sister Dana and her brother Simon. This is the last time she will remember being happy.

American War is a story told by Sarat’s nephew and outlines how a young girl was turned by circumstance into a deadly weapon.


Our Review

It is 2074 and a second American Civil War has broken out between the Northern and Southern states of America, the (Blues) and the (Reds.)

Sarat Chestnut is six and lives with her family in a corrugated steel container in St James, Louisiana. She spends her days playing in the river and on it’s muddy banks with her twin sister Dana and her brother Simon. This is the last time she will remember being happy.

American War is a story told by Sarat’s nephew and outlines how a young girl was turned by circumstance into a deadly weapon.

Omar El Akkad never fully explains the circumstances behind the beginning of the war just that for environmental reasons the use of fossil fuels was banned and that the Southern States were reluctant to be told what to do in this matter. The planet turned on the country and the country turned on itself.

Via Sarat’s nephew we learn that following the end of the war there was a decade-long plague which was released when a rebel from the South managed to sneak into the Union capital. The plague killed ten times the number of people killed during the Civil War. We also learn that he knows who the unnamed rebel is because she was his aunt.

He is mad at her for the situation she put him in but he still loves his aunt despite all the destruction she caused.

“Sometimes I stare out at the sea for hours, well past dark, until I am elsewhere in time and elsewhere in place: back in the battered Red country where I was born.

And that’s when I see her again…And I am a child again, yet to be taken from my parents and my home, yet to be betrayed. I am back home by the riverbank and I am happy and I still love her. My secret is I still love her.

This isn’t a story about the war. It’s about ruin.”

The extract above, particularly the last line is a true reflection of American War. It is not a story about the war. It is a story about the ruin of a young girl. A character study.

One of the things that prompted me to request American War was the fact that it was set in Louisiana. I loved Louisiana a few years ago and I loved it so the idea of reading a book set there appealed to me. However, the Louisiana of American War is barely recognisable due to environmental changes.

“The coastal waters were brown and still. The sea’s mouth opened wide over ruined marshland, and every year grew wider, the water picking away at the silt and sand and clay, until the old riverside plantations and plastics factories and marine railways became unstable. Before the buildings slid into the water for good, they were stripped for their usable parts by the delta’s last holdout residents. The water swallowed the land. To the southeast, the once glorious city of New Orleans became a well within the walls of its levees.”

As a young girl Sarat was a tomboy, her mother used to say God only gave her enough girl for one of her twins. Where Dana was a daddy’s girl, Sarat had always taken after her mother. She was stubborn, hard, undaunted by calamity.

On the day we meet Sarat her father is planning on going to get a work permit to move North. Louisiana is considered a ‘purple’ state, sympathetic to the Red’s but not necessarily of them. Her father wants a better life for the family and because of this he wants to move North but his wife, Martina is not so sure. Whilst he is out getting this permit he is blown up during an attack by Southern Rebels.

Without her husband Martina is at a loss for how she will provide for her family but when she asked for help from a rebel leader he refuses to provide her and suggests she takes her family to a refugee camp named Camp Patience in Mississippi.

“In the purple light of dusk, the Chestnuts walked into the huge tent favela that would, until the night of the great massacre, serve as their city of refuge.”

The events on the night of the great massacre set Sarat on an irreversible path of revenge which change her forever. For her there can never be any talk of peace because “blood can never be unspilled.”

On the whole, I loved this book but there were a few things which caused me to rate it as 3.9. Firstly, I found the extracts of historical sources extremely dull and after I while I just began to skip them entirely.

Secondly, there was a brief period in the book where I became bored and found myself looking forward to finishing the book. However, this lasted only about the length of one chapter and was quickly forgotten.

I enjoyed the fast paced nature of American War and the beautiful writing of Akkad. Sarat was a brilliant developed character. I felt everything she was feeling and it was easy to see why she felt compelled to make the choices she did. After all, everybody fights an American War.

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

  • Currently 3.9/5

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