In my case, that’s exactly what happened with American War. My lack of love for this book is definitely a case of “it’s not you; it’s me,” and that is in large part due to the timing.
This was a very good book objectively. It was beautifully written, well-researched, poignant, and plausible. But subjectively, I couldn’t get far enough past the sadness that said plausibility invoked within me to enjoy anything about the book. The plot was heavy stuff, and wasn’t meant to be enjoyed. But even in horribly sad books, I can usually find something to appreciate, whether that’s the prose, the characterization, the setting, or even the cautionary tale being presented. I just couldn’t do that with this book.
There is so much going on in America right now. I started reading this book about two days before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, and was unable to pick it up again until the worst of it was past. My state has been decimated by hurricanes in the past, and watching that happen to our neighbor to the west was heartbreaking. (My thoughts and prayers are still with those Texans whose lives were forever altered by the storm.) In the future put forth by the author in American War, our coastline has been radically altered by hurricanes. Almost a third of Louisiana is underwater by the year 2075, and many other seaport cities along the coast have sank beneath the waves. And that’s just the setting. Can you see why this was hard for me to read when I picked it up?
While the storms are wreaking havoc on American soil, that’s not the end of our issues. There is so much infighting within these “United States” at the moment that a second Civil War doesn’t seem that impossible. Reading a book about a second American Civil War while our nation is so divided wasn’t a good move on my part. It’s hard enough maintaining optimism without adding such a plausible picture of a future war-torn America to the visions already plaguing my mind. Our strength is in our unity, and without that unity we will fall. I wish that we as Americans could love one another more than we hate any opinion that opposes our own. And I have faith that with God, anything is possible. But things look bleak, and I didn’t need the bleakness of this book added on top of that.
I just picked up this book at exactly the wrong moment. It’s not the book’s fault. This was a well-written look at a possible future for America if we can’t learn to forgive and live and let live. I can’t give it less than three stars, because it was excellently written and Sarat was a heartbreaking character. But I can’t give it more than three stars because it broke my heart and gave me no balm for the wound. Please understand that this is a highly subjective rating, and that I’m not trying to deter anyone from reading the book. But if you do decide to read American War, prepare your mind for a story that’s sad and almost unrelievingly bleak. May the prophecy held within these pages never come to pass, and may God bless America.