Author(s): Omar El Akkad
'[American War] creates as haunting a post-apocalyptic universe as Cormac McCarthy did in The Road, and as devastating a look at the fallout that national events have on an American family as Philip Roth did in The Plot Against America . . . El Akkad has written a novel that not only maps the harrowing effects of violence on one woman and her family, but also becomes a disturbing parable about the ruinous consequences of war on ordinary civilians.' Michiko Kakutani, New York TimesSarat 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, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war - part of the Miraculous Generation - now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past, his family's role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.
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.
[American War] creates as haunting a post-apocalyptic universe as Cormac McCarthy did in The Road, and as devastating a look at the fallout that national events have on an American family as Philip Roth did in The Plot Against America . . . El Akkad has written a novel that not only maps the harrowing effects of violence on one woman and her family, but also becomes a disturbing parable about the ruinous consequences of war on ordinary civilians. -- Michiko Kakutani * New York Times * American War is an extraordinary novel. El Akkad's story of a family caught up in the collapse of an empire is as harrowing as it is brilliant, and has an air of terrible relevance in these partisan times. -- Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven Disturbingly plausible . . . a tale of a future America torn asunder by its own political and tribal affiliations . . . The novel's thriller premise notwithstanding, Akkad applies a literary writer's care to his depiction of Sarat's psychological unpacking and the sensory details of her life . . . Whether read as a cautionary tale of partisanship run amok, an allegory of past conflicts or a study of the psychology of war, American War is a deeply unsettling novel. The only comfort the story offers is that it's a work of fiction. For the time being, anyway. -- Justin Cronin * New York Times * Follow the tributaries of today's political combat a few decades into the future and you might arrive at something as terrifying as Omar El Akkad's debut novel, American War . . . Poignant and horrifying . . . El Akkad demonstrates a profound understanding of the corrosive culture of civil war, the offenses that give rise to new hypocrisies and mythologies, translating terrorists into martyrs and acts of despair into feats of heroism. * Washington Post * American War is a worthy first novel, thought-provoking [and] earnest . . . It is at its best depicting the lives of ordinary people caught up in terrible circumstances and how those ordinary people are, in the crosshairs of crisis, forever changes, and how some can become extraordinary or at least affect history. * Los Angeles Times * In American War, [Omar El Akkad] has crafted a most unusual novel, one featuring a gripping plot and an elegiac narrative tone, but also an oppressively grim vision of a divided, selfdestructive nation that becomes a victim of its darkest impulses and actions. * Boston Globe * El Akkad's debut novel transports us to a terrifyingly plausible future in which the clash between red states and blue has become deadly . . . 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. * Publishers' Weekly * El Akkad has created a brilliantly well-crafted, profoundly shattering saga of one family's suffering in a world of brutal power struggles, terrorism, ignorance, and vengeance. American War is a gripping, unsparing, and essential novel for dangerously contentious times. * Booklist (starred review) * A plausible, terrifying chronicle of the fracture and subsequent annihilation of the US . . . A thrillingly complex adventure that moves from the American south to Alaska and on to the Middle East and North Africa . . . At its heart and most movingly, the novel also becomes a coming-of-age narrative about how easily a curious child faced with horror and powerlessness can transform into a weapon intent on obliteration. As we learn at the end of the prologue, "This isn't a story about war. It's about ruin."' * The Australian * American War is Omar El Akkad's first novel and it is masterful. Both the story and the writing are lucid, succinct, powerful and persuasive . . . Over the course of the novel, we will discover how the narrator came to know and love Sarat, how he suffered to see her suffer and how he witnessed good and evil do battle for her soul. But, more importantly, we come to reflect once more on the egotism and idiocy of war, and on the millions of people it makes homeless, and on the unfortunate way that those who still have the means to live inside locked homes tend to hate others who show up en masse at their doorstep, shoeless and hungry and desperate. * Toronto Globe and Mail *
Omar El Akkad is an award-winning journalist and author who has travelled around the world to cover many of the most important news stories of the last decade. His reporting includes dispatches from the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, the military trials at Guantanamo Bay, the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. He is a recipient of a National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting and the Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Journalists, as well as three National Magazine Award honorable mentions. He lives in Portland, Oregon.