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The God of War: A Novel

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  781 Ratings  ·  158 Reviews
The year is 1978. Ares Ramirez, age 12, lives with his mother, Laurel, and his younger brother Malcolm in a trailer at the edge of the Salton Sea, an unintentionally man-made body of water in the middle of the Southern California desert. It is a desolate, forgotten place, whose inhabitants thrive amidst seemingly impossible circumstances.

Where birds fly by day across the
ebook, 304 pages
Published April 29th 2008 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2008)
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Feb 10, 2012 Catie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, read-in-2012, audio
This book is a very descriptive, unhurried meditation on the weight of history and guilt. Which is something that I think about quite a lot. I think about my Mom, who was raised in a rigid, military home and resented it so much that as a parent she was afraid to say no to anything, ever. I think about my Dad, who was raised with an absentee father, and eventually became one himself. I think about all the illogical things that I do in direct reaction to the way I was raised. My mom has and always ...more
Paul Pessolano
Feb 06, 2016 Paul Pessolano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The God of War” by Marisa Silver, published by Simon & Schuster.

Category – Fiction/Literature Publication Date – April, 2008.

Ares Ramirez is 12 years old and has been named after Ares, the God of War. He lives with his mother and brother in a secluded and poverty stricken area of the desert. This is a story of his coming of age in very difficult circumstances. Ares has seen men come into and out of the life of his mother, with only one spending any kind of time with them as a family. His mo
Nov 19, 2010 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Marisa Silver's second novel made a huge emotional impact on me. I was alternately enthralled and annoyed but by the end I could not recall what had annoyed me. Laurel is a single mom raising two sons in a cramped trailer on the Salton Sea in the late 1970s. The story is told by her older son, twleve-year-old Ares, who chooses to play the god of war in the family.

Ares is tortured by the conviction that because he dropped his younger brother on his head when Malcolm was a baby, he is responsibl
Feb 05, 2009 Roxanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Roxanne by: my mother
This was an excellent book and I never want to read it again.
Jul 13, 2009 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-favorite-read

Okay first off, I can't hold back any longer: I LOVED this book!!! I was not sure I would, when I looked at the cover and read the title but, "don't judge a book by its cover"---trust me on this one, and the story is not about war either.

The God of War, by Marisa Silver is actually a coming of age story. It is one of those rare gems that I did not want to put down once I started it, and, when I turned the final page (just 271), I had wished it was longer.

The story takes place in 1978, and is nar
Karen Germain
Feb 08, 2013 Karen Germain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dillwynia Peter
Oct 09, 2012 Dillwynia Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Being a contemporary US writer, I was a little apprehensive to start with (after my foray with Conroy), but the apprehension quickly disappeared.

The story & characters are believable, particularly the guilt of Ares and how he processes and atones for it. The narrative moves at a quick but acceptable pace and I found I didn't want to do other things, but rather settle in a decent chair & light & watch the play of circumstances. My only small niggle - & it is small - is I felt the
A great novel is one that leaves you pondering long after the last page is read..."The God of War" is such a novel. The bone-dry, desolate stark setting near the Salton Sea in California, perfectly mirrors the life story of young Ares Ramirez with his mentally challenged brother, Malcolm, and his emotionally scarred mother, Laurel. The characters are heartfelt realistic, so much so, I wished there was a way to reach through the pages to comfort and assist them. And though the characters could co ...more
Jul 16, 2013 Karima rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Setting: 1978 Southern CA. . Bombay Beach, on the shores of the Salton Sea (about 85 mies south of San Diego).
Sound romantic? Picturesque? Not. This is a forgotten place populated by lonely, wounded, barely making-it people.
Narrated by 12-year-old fatherless Ares Ramirez, who lives with his trying-hard but bedraggled mother and a disabled, two-year-old younger brother, Malcolm.
Another going-of age-story. Yes. Worth your time? Definitely. Silver really nails adolescent anger and confusion, singl
Jill Sorenson
Jan 04, 2013 Jill Sorenson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gorgeously written, heartbreaking, hopeful and sad at the same time. This is a story about a 12 year old boy growing up near the Salton Sea in the 70s. Ares deals with feelings of guilt over his brother's accident, and frustration with 6 year-old Malcolm's disabilities. He also rages against his irresponsible mother, who leaves the bulk of Malcolm's care to Ares. Although Areas is a good brother, gentle with Malcolm, he wants to rebel and lash out and escape.

The writing draws attention to itsel
May 02, 2010 julieta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-americans
There are so many feelings that exist and grow because you are part of a family. Some like guilt, responsability, love, etc, so many, and so contrasting and intense.
This book is beautiful in that it tells you a story about a very particular family, but it reminded me at least, of what it is to find yourself a part of a group of people who happen to be your family.
Sometimes you can't stand them, and sometimes you just want to be with them for no other reason than being with them, even if it doe
I was really enjoying this book until the last chapter. I would have given the book four stars but the last chapter did not flow or seem to fit the rest of the book. The ending is so critical to me. More so than the first few pages. With that, I would suggest this book as a good read, but would always want to know how the reader felt about the ending.
Very fast read. Loved everyone in the book. Especially Richard and Mrs. Poole. I would love to see this made into a movie, which is saying a lot fr
Jul 07, 2008 Molly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Molly by: a colleague
Shelves: alreadyread
I really loved this book. It was a nice, tight story, succinctly told and heartbreaking. I love realistic fiction and this one fit the bill. Great book about family dynamics, adolescence and loneliness.
Zak Cebulski
May 01, 2013 Zak Cebulski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-completed
I was apprehensive about this book. I bought this book at a library book sale for 50 cents. After which I put it on my bookshelf where it sat for almost a whole year. Finally I picked it up to read after noticing that I have far too many unread books. I am glad that I got around to this book, it surpassed all of my expectations.

The story. As in all of my other reviews, or most of them at least, I will start off with the story. It takes place in 1978, and follows a 12 year old boy called ares. He
Sharon Boorstin
Jan 05, 2017 Sharon Boorstin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The author picks one of the least lovable spots in California – the desolate, beyond-hot, and literally dying Salton Sea – and weaves a riveting story that makes you feel the place, the people and their desperation. I liked this book more than Silver's Mary Coin and certainly more than her Little Nothing. In fact, I can't get it out of my craw.

May 27, 2008 L.A.Weekly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Wasteland: Marisa Silver's novel The God of War

On the face of things, Ares Ramirez, the 12-year-old at the broken heart of Marisa Silver’s elegiac new novel, The God of War, is working through a normal adolescence. His body is changing, his soul is torn between belonging and rebellion and he doesn’t know whether to love or hate his single mother, Laurel, with whom he lives in a run-down trailer in the Southern California desert bounded by Mexico and San Diego. But for a boy his
Aug 05, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: Peter Lowenthal
Given to me by my cousin, who said, "I defy you to read three pages of this and not want to read more." He was right. I read three pages and wanted more.

I actually did like this book a good deal, though I had many questions in my mind while reading it and still at the end, that were never answered. I was worried that it would be a Cathcher in the Rye teenage angst type novel, but unfolded in quite a different manner. The starkness of the Salton Sea fascinated me. I'd never heard of that particul
Feb 05, 2013 Donna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, trip-west
I was attracted to this novel by the setting, having recently visited California’s Salton Sea on a road trip west. While I generally flee from stories of adolescent boys or any that might be sporting a “coming-of-age” theme, I was so captivated by the location that I felt compelled to give this one a try. After discovering the Salton Sea herself, Marisa Silver was apparently drawn to write about it in a similar way, and I feel that she beautifully captures the stark beauty of sea itself along wi ...more
May 13, 2013 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
On the plus side, the characters seem reasonably well developed. No one is evil, everyone is trying to do good and failing. The narrator's adolescent rebellion was relatable, all that stuff, even if it's impossible to believe that the speaker is male. The big problem is the sentences. Some examples:

"I felt betrayed, not by them but by my younger self who had naively accepted everything and had not looked beyond the near horizon of my life to see how insignificant I was."

“I was suffused with a l
Aug 06, 2010 Tracey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book! After hearing about how dark it is from several of my book group members who had already read it, I thought I wasn't going to like it, but I really did. The writing is exquisite, which I had heard prior to reading it. I found the characters entirely realistic and felt their feelings and actions were believable given the circumstances. I was struck by how real the story seemed, and at times felt I was reading non-fiction. This book is the book that was selected by the Cl ...more
Sep 13, 2011 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The reader follows the story of a boy as he deals with the responsibilities of rearing his younger, impaired brother while going through the stages of adolescence, in a poor, rural community in Southern California.

The boy deals with teenage struggles that are universal enough that this reader could identify with him, and unique enough that the story is new and fresh. I found the main character likable and his relationship with his brother believable and endearing. The author paints the brother i
I loved this book. While it did not make it as a 5-star (not everything can) it was very close. This novel provides a really wonderful look into the mind of an adolescent who suffers a myriad of ways as he attempts to come to grips with his past that haunts him, his mentally disabled brother, his family, his environment and finally death. It is wonderfully written in first person by Marisa Silver who delivers a story that kept me turning the pages throughout the night.

With the exception of an e
Jul 06, 2009 Darlene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very "real" book because of the author's sensitivity to her characters and their lives. She does not judge them, but while she presents them as flawed she shows sympathy for them and their idiosycricies. It is an excellent book on several levels.
This family, living on the edge of the Salton Sea as well as on the edge of society struggles with familiar family issues. Ares, our god of war, struggles to find his own way while bearing major responsiblity for his younger brother who is disa
Kim Fay
I read this novel because I have long had a fascination with the Salton Sea, and I was hoping it would give me a feeling for the haphazard communities that have developed around this "accidental" sea. I did not expect any kind of history lesson; what I was hoping for was a mood. But the book, though well done, left me feeling flat. Who knows? Maybe that is what life around the sea does to the people who live there, and in that, the book succeeds. But I felt that I was missing something ... I wan ...more
This book immediately grabbed my attention. It starts with a hidden gun and a 12 year old boy protecting his severely autistic little brother. I was expecting it to go on with a trial and the aftermath. Instead it told about their life before the incident and the older brother's life with a autistic brother. This isn't nothing bad, I just thought it would be more interesting to hear what happened after. It does come back to the gun and major incident, but not until the last disc and in a brief m ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Most critics were drawn in by this sad and lovely tale of a lonely boy weighed down by burdens even an adult would find difficult to bear. Silver's characters are carefully rendered and sympathetic, her prose is compulsively readable, and her portrayal of Malcolm's autism is accurate and meaningful. As a narrator looking back 30 years, Ares is clever and perceptive; however, to the dismay of critics, the mature adult's voice spills over too often into the boy's thoughts and insights. Silver also

Sep 30, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Silver tells a sad story very well. Ares (the god of war for those who forget) is a youg boy with a difficult life. His brother is retarded because Ares dropped him on his head in a parking lot and their mother is fruity. She walks around in her underwear and doesn't want a man living with them. Ares develops quite a crush on his librarian who also agrees to help tutor Malcolm. But Malcolm doesn't really get better. And Ares gets involved with the librarian's foster son who is nothing but troubl ...more
Mar 05, 2014 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's official. I love Marisa Silver. I finished her most recent novel, "Mary Coin," last week and loved that. And this one is right up there. Totally different subject matter. It's set beside the Salton Sea in a poor community in an unconventional, imperfect family (single mom, two kids, one of whom has autism or cerebral palsy?). Themes of drugs, violence, teenage rebellion, and coming of age are all part of the story -- which grabbed me on page one and had me hooked until the climax and none-t ...more
Jul 09, 2008 Betsy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing is succinct and characters are well drawn. The setting is practically another character - full of loneliness and regret. I thought this was very beautifully written. Marisa Silver seems to channel the young teen, Ares. We see his frustration - he feels invisible as well as overwhelmed by the job of caring for his brain-damaged brother whose disability he believes he caused when he dropped him as a baby. Ares' devolution from a "good" kid who's either ostracized or ignored to an escal ...more
Carla Ford
Jul 11, 2009 Carla Ford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marisa Silver has written a novel from the perspective of a twelve year old boy so believably that it is hard to believe that she is not a twelve year old boy. This book was so gripping and painful that I didn't want to put it down until I knew that Ares was going to be okay. Named after the Greek God of war by his free spirited, eccentric mother, Ares has lived with the pain of his younger brother's severe mental disability for more than five years. He has a level of maturity and responsibility ...more
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Marisa Silver is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel, Mary Coin (published by Blue Rider Press, March 7th, 2013).

Marisa Silver directed her first film, Old Enough, while she studied at Harvard University. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1984, when Silver was 23. Silver went on to direct three more feature films, Permanent Record (1988), with Keanu Reeves, Vital S
More about Marisa Silver...

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