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America America

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  3,279 ratings  ·  595 reviews
A stunning novel, set in a small town during the Nixon era and today, about America and family, politics and tragedy, and the impact of fate on a young man’s life.

In the early 1970s, Corey Sifter, the son of working-class parents, becomes a yard boy on the grand estate of the powerful Metarey family. Soon, through the family’s generosity, he is a student at a private board
Hardcover, 458 pages
Published June 24th 2008 by Random House
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Mickey Collins I believe the painter of the portrait put in things to remind people what the Metarey grandfather did during the strike in Canada, at the mine that he…moreI believe the painter of the portrait put in things to remind people what the Metarey grandfather did during the strike in Canada, at the mine that he owned. That he let his miners die in the mine, and did not allow them to have water. Or food. (less)
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3.65  · 
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 ·  3,279 ratings  ·  595 reviews

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Ron Charles
Dec 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
America America is Ethan Canin's best novel, but its timing is unnerving. His ruminative story begins with a funeral for the country's greatest liberal senator, whose presidential ambitions were smashed years earlier by the death of a young campaign aide in a drunk-driving accident. The novel really isn't about Sen. Ted Kennedy, but the resemblance is impossible to ignore, and Kennedy's recent announcement that he has a malignant brain tumor has already started, for many of us, the process of re ...more
Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
wow this was a great book. Ethan Canin is a talent beyond his years. His writing style is calm and fluid. One of the best aspects of the book is the reflections that the narrator makes on his own daughters. It isn't just a story about hard work, ambition and the great American way. Canin shows us that we are just paving the way for what we set for ourselves back when we were children. I f we were digging holes when we were seven, take a look at what you are doing when you;re thirty. If your maki ...more
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I bought the book for 50 cents at Big Lots. It sat on my shelf for at least a year. I picked it up and fell in love. I did not want to read it too fast, yet did not want to put it down. In his blurb, Pat Conroy confesses, "I love this book." Well, Pat, I do too. I finished it over a week ago, and the characters and images live in my mind's eye as if I had lived the story myself.

Corey, the son of a blue-collar, working class man, shares his father's high standards of careful workmanship. While he
May 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: modern-fiction
Norman Rockwell meets 1970s politics? This book just did not work for me. I never got the sense that the author understood anything at all about growing up in the 70s. It felt like it was set in the 1950s instead. I also don't think that the author understood anything at all about his own protagonist, Corey Sifter. It would have been nice if we got a better portrayal of the conflicting emotions Corey must have felt for his mentor - on the one hand admiration and genuine affection, on the other h ...more
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Ethan Canin just keeps getting better and better. This beautifully crafted novel, set in the 1970s, tells the story of Corey Sifter, a poor, bright, earnest young man drawn into the privileged circle of a wealthy liberal family, the Metareys, and their world of wealth and political machination. The characters are wonderfully realized and the story, which revolves around the rise and scandalous fall of a great Senator who's running for President, is very compelling. Not to mention oh-so-relevant ...more
Sarah Gregg
Dec 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
I had to force myself to finish this book and believe me, was it painful! None of the characters were remotely interesting, let alone likeable. I had to wonder if the author understands ANYTHING about politics, class ambition, or human frailty, or just thought it was time for another fictional regurgitation of Chappaquiddick (see Joyce Carol Oates' "Black Water" for a very well-done fictional regurgitation of Chappaquiddick).

Corey's character is completely flat and unappealing...the author could
Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book of Ethan Canin’s I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last…

"America, America" is a readable saga that’s especially relevant as it explores the nature of politics, family, class, and idealism at the height of the Vietnam War. In this coming-of-age story we follow the life of Corey Sifter, a working class boy that is both smart and ambitious-if not a bit naïve. Young Corey goes to work for the Metarey’s, the most prominent and influential family in his small New England
Bruno Bouchet
Apr 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
Oh no! I ended up putting this book aside. I'm a sucker for the old ingenue sucked in the wealthy family and getting involved in a scandal plot, but this seemed to add nothing new. I'd read it all before and the pace seemed to move really slowly. I didn't enjoy the present-time story and felt when a third timeline was introduced I gave up. ALthough the past-time line was set in the 70's, it didn't feel like the seventies, it felt very 30-50's. I found it hard to believe in the 1970s a father and ...more
Oct 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Especially interesting in the election year, this is a novel about politics, ambition and family secrets. It kind of plods along and yet is suspenseful at the same time. I've been savoring it over the past few weeks (it is SO OVERDUE at the library) and enjoying dipping in and out of it. Interesting narrative technique and lovely writing, coupled with suspense makes it the kind of book I love. Definitely check this one out.
Nov 01, 2011 rated it liked it
I requested the book from the LT Early Reviewer program because I loved Canin’s book of short stories (“The Palace Thief”} and because the plot summary was irresistible: politics, scandal and small-town life in the Nixon era, with a working-class protagonist entangled with the rich and powerful – all the ingredients of a great read in the hands of a master of character development.

The result is a beautifully written book that perhaps reaches for more than it achieves. The story, told by decent
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
It took some patience, and yes, I'd even say "work", for me to get through this. It doesn't start to get interesting until about 60 pages in, and there are places throughout the book that drag a bit. But I'm glad I stayed with it. The story delves into a lot of murky areas with regard to politicians, class consciousness, family dynamics, and the price each individual pays for keeping secrets.

There is an especially pointed exploration of how the privileged classes view themselves and the lengths
Melissa LaSalle
Jun 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
In the style of the Great American Novels, this delicious sink-your-teeth-into-it read is a rare blend of a coming-of-age story and a political thriller. The themes are plentiful and ambitious, beautifully summed up by the narrator himself in the final pages:"What have I learned? The old verities, mostly: that love for our children is what sustains us; that people are not what they seem; that those we hate bear some wound equal to our own; that power is desperation's salve, and that this fact as ...more
Jun 16, 2015 rated it liked it
This book about family, politics and tragedy set in the 1970's is beautifully written, but that alone isn't enough to make me love it. Almost the entire novel is viewed through the POV of the main character Corey Sifter at various stages of his life. The narrative changes from one life stage to another within chapters, so at times you are figuring out which Corey is narrating now: the adult Corey, the teen Corey or the college Corey? I eventually got used to this but I never grew to like it, and ...more
Feb 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
A great American novel. I find it unusual to read a novel that neither tries to create an overly romantic view of American life, nor a snarky nod to its shattered idealism. Having just come out of a decade where the word "values" had been manipulated into being synonymous with political will and the so-called righteous American stance, the essence of "America America" is about exploring a more fundamental and richer meaning of the word. What happened to "values" meaning hard work and class ident ...more
Lars Guthrie
Dec 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Geoffrey Wolff's review in the New York Times brands the narrator of "America America" as "diffident and reliably gullible and unsmiling." While I would disagree with the last adjective--Corey Sifter surely has a sense of humor--I must admit my affection for Sifter's story is due in part to my own diffidence and gullibility. I keep being drawn to elements of our culture that show my pop naivete--Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love" truly moves me, for one example. Anyway, "America America" spoke to me. ...more
Aug 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Corey Sifer is the son of high class parents, is an ambitious young and intelligent man. He attends a prestigious school, because of the grace of his parents. He works on a yard, but soon he is called to work as an assistant for the Senator Henry Bonwiller, who is running for president in New York. The love his mom has for him is overwhelming and she is hesitant to send him away, but he obliged because he knows that this is a great opportunity for him. The Metaries are a family that has a bad re ...more
Jul 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Rich
This book has a few characteristics that classically appeal to me: wealthy characters, family, a tiny slice of boarding school, and a Northeastern setting. The narration can be a little ponderous at times, but the splicing of the different narratives works really well, even in places propelling me along much faster than the voice itself (wanting to go back to the next piece of the story, but never sure which strand Canin will take up next). Parts of the story were very moving, and, true to its t ...more
Jul 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Whew, thank goodness. I've started and tossed aside four or five books in the last two weeks, not sure whether they just sucked or whether I'd developed a brain disease that affected my concentration. But once I started this one, I was sucked in for two days. Thanks to Mr. Canin, I know I'm not suffering from early senility. What a great book! Class, family, politics, innocence, corruption, and one of the great dog characters in recent literature.
Apr 30, 2008 rated it liked it
I really love his short stories, but I find his novels to be lacking something. In this case, it just felt long & overly drawn out. The characters were good & I love his writing, but the plot didn't sustain a book of this length. Try "The Palace Thief" or "Emperor of the Air" instead.
Chad Sayban
Sep 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
This story, while beautifully written, is difficult to classify. Is it a historical fiction piece? Is it a murder mystery? A coming-of-age story? A political diatribe? A rags-to-riches yarn? Actually, a title as broad as America, America is fitting because it takes on all of these things at once. The shocking part is that it actually works. It doesn’t feel like a reach. In fact, it works quite well by employing something rarely used anymore – the art of subtlety.

The characters - beginning with t
Book Club Mom
Jul 01, 2015 rated it liked it
In 1971, Henry Bonwiller is near the front of the race to become the next Democratic nominee for president of the United States, and a young Corey Sifter is there to witness his rise and ultimate fall, as an aide to the money and power behind the campaign, Liam Metarey. America America is a coming-of-age story set inside a political drama in which Corey, the hard working teenage son of a tradesman in the upstate New York town of Saline, is taken under Metarey’s wing. Saline is a fictional town i ...more
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: written-review
This book came highly recommended by various reviewers, and the plot sounded intriguing: the early seventies, a wealthy political family, a flawed charismatic candidate running for president, some spicy scandal that brings his run down, all seen through the eyes of the innocent young narrator... How Ethan Canin managed to take these promising ingredients and turn them, not into a rich strew but into a handful of dust, I don't know, but manage it he did.

I think it is because, fundamentally, the
May 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, politics, arc
Perhaps the whole point of this book is that no-one can know the truth at the bottom of a scandal except the people involved, but I think that Canin makes this point in an unnecessarily confusing way. The time frame shifts from the present (more or less) to various points in Corey Sifter's association with the Metarey's, the wealthy family in town, who become his patron, sending him to private school and then helping to pay his college tuition. He is telling the story to his would-be protegee, a ...more
Aug 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book has been on my book rental to read list for a long time. They finally sent it and by the time I got it I had forgotten why I was interested in reading it. I know why, now that I have read it. It covers a time period which was a part of my life and about which I am very interested in reading. The time frame for this novel is approximately the latter 1960's to the early 1980's. The story centers around Corey Sifter who is the son of working class parents. In the area of upstate New York ...more
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
This engaging novel takes place in the early 70's and is narrated by present day Corey Sifter, a newspaper publisher in a small town in upstate New York. It is a coming of age story, but also an historical novel about presidential politics. It involves the fictional Senator Henry Bonwiller, who runs in the Democratic primaries against Ed Muskie and George McGovern, and his ultimate undoing. Sixteen-year-old Corey, the son of a laborer, is hired to work for the powerful Liam Matarey, who takes th ...more
Dec 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book was a stunning portrait of America's eastern upper class, of the wealthy and the influential, of how financial empires turn, eventually, into politics in some way, shape or form. Told by a narrator, Corey Sifter, who is the outsider to a world of privilege, it tells of the shadows and darkness that exist - and eventually swallow - those who miss the steps of the dances of money and power. Corey is a jack-of-all-trades houseboy for the powerful Metarey family, a family whose financial s ...more
Brian Ayres
Sep 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Ethan Canin takes much effort through many time shifts to piece together the story of a small-town New York boy embroiled in politics at the grandest and most corrupt stage buring the Nixon era. But while this novel makes many statements about the cruelty of politics and the limits of journalism, I felt Canin made a telling statement about the power and bond of family, through trial and triumph, either rich or poor.

Overall, Canin writes very well and with a clear purpose. Yes, this is a politic
Jul 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this sprawling story of American politics and a young boy's coming of age as he works for a wealthy, influential man in an upstate New York small town in the '70s. Canin captures the compromises and treachery of politics as well as the greater good that can be done on a public level by deeply flawed human beings. (Comparisons to Edward Kennedy are valid, though other political and public figures are referenced as well.) The era of the story depicts a different America than the o ...more
May 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this novel! I had never read anything by Ethan Canin and after hearing about this one I added it to my list. It is so well written and the story is wonderful, especially given the subject matter (politics) and the timing (our current election).

Canin is a fantastic storyteller and this story is an American classic. It's about class distinctions and power and politics and scandal and journalism and family and everything American. Wonderful.

Canin is a a great American author and I pl
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Innocence raped: America, America 3 48 Aug 15, 2013 01:04PM  

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Highly regarded as both a novelist and a short story writer, Ethan Canin has ranged in his career from the "breathtaking" short stories of Emperor of the Air to the "stunning" novellas of The Palace Thief, from the "wise and beautiful" short novel Carry Me Across the Water to the "epic" America America. His short stories, which have been the basis for four Hollywood movies, have appeared in a wide ...more
“One of the hallmarks of our politics now is that we tend to elect those who can campaign over those who can lead;” 14 likes
“The forgotten of this country have a consistent history of turning on their champions, and I suppose the way working men and women have forsaken the very politicians who could help them most speaks of the primacy of emotion in politics. Perhaps the great decline of FDR's party, which was beginning in Henry Bonwiller's time, didn't come about because Democrats favored a logical argument over a moral one, but simply because they clung to the idea that either one mattered at all.” 2 likes
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