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American Rust

American Rust by Philipp Meyer
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A heart-wrenching, unputdownable tale of redemption and survival in small-town America in the tradition of Richard Ford, Pete Dexter and Cormac McCarthy. American Rust tells the story of two friends, one, Isaac, who is desperate to escape the run-down dying steel town of his childhood but is stuck there looking after his invalid father, the other, Poe, a former sporting hero who's already past his prime and has missed the chance to make it big in another place. Isaac plucks up the courage to leave town, but on the way out fate intervenes and a criminal vagrant is killed in self-defence. The police chief suspects hot-tempered Poe, whom he has helped out of a charge in the past because of the chief's close relationship with Poe's mother, but the truth is very different. It threatens to pull them all under.

The book is told from the perspectives of Isaac, Poe, Poe's mother Grace, Isaac's sister Lee and the police chief Harris, who is involved with Grace. It reads like the story behind a Springsteen song (Thunder Road, maybe), The Deerhunter 30 years on, Shakespeare meets Cormac McCarthy, the underbelly of the American Dream.

Philipp Meyer is a singular talent and American Rust is one of those rare novels that hands you a whole world, created so perfectly that you know it already, and forever, though you were a stranger to it before reading the book, a contemporary world in which the word damnation feels at home and where nothing separates love and pain. American Rust is a book of revelations, told as cleanly and deliberately as a blade-cut, with a powerful, humbling wisdom. It will take your breath away.

With its strong narrative engine and understated social insight, American Rust is reminiscent of the best of Robert Stone and Russell Banks. Author Philipp Meyer locates the heart of his working class characters without false sentiment or condescension, and their world is artfully described. An extraordinary, compelling novel from a major talent -George Pelecanos

Philipp Meyer's American Rust is written with considerable dramatic intensity and pace. It manages an emotional accuracy, a deep and detailed conviction in its depiction of character. It also captures a sense of a menacing society, a wider world in the throes of decay and self-destruction -Colm Toibin

Meyer has a thrilling eye for failed dreams and writes uncommonly tense scenes of violence . . . Fans of Cormac McCarthy or Dennis Lehane will find in Meyer an author worth watching -Publishers Weekly

This is strong, clean stuff. Philipp Meyer deserves to be taken seriously -Pete Dexter

Allen & Unwin; May 2009
328 pages; ISBN 9781741767162
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Title: American Rust
Author: Philipp Meyer
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