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And West Is West

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  596 ratings  ·  91 reviews
Winner of the prestigious PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, And West Is West is an inspired novel about two young people who learn, the hard way, about the devastating power of new technology to isolate us from the consequences of our actions.

When Jessica, a young Air Force drone pilot in Nevada, is tasked with launching a missile against a suspected terr
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 13th 2015 by Algonquin Books
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Average rating 3.47  · 
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 ·  596 ratings  ·  91 reviews

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Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
You know how you pick up a book you've never heard of, by a writer you've never read, and flip through and read few paragraphs here and there? And after doing that, with some books you say "no" right away, others you decide to give a chance, but some are just "yes"? This is the 3rd category. Crisp, absorbing, well written, interesting, strong characters, smartly crafted plot, and best of all, an ending that's not all tied up into a neat package. I think some people might find it dark and the end ...more
Aug 25, 2015 rated it liked it
ARC received courtesy of giveaway

Such a depressing story...All of the characters have terrible things befall them. Ethan devises algorithms for a huge bank to use that take advantage to world events to trade currencies and make money from the horrible misfortunes of others. Jessica is a drone pilot. Without have actual eyes on her targets, she is told from her superiors when to shoot the missiles. When things go bad for both of them at those jobs, they are both set adrift in life.
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really, really liked this book. There were two conspiracies going on here. One was in the government spector and one was in the private spector. It was interesting to see how both were handled and how both worked out. Of course, this was fiction, but then again was it?

The story definitely kept me fascinated as, of course, there were other smaller stories going on as well. The author did a great job holding my attention and in writing a great story. I was so engrossed in it that before I knew i
Mike Cuthbert
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ostensibly about drone tactics and the people who pilot them, this novel quickly turns on the moral question and challenge of shooting at long range at blurry targets involving split-second decisions on whether targets are tactical or “collateral damage.” It also asks the questions anyone might ask: how often does the Army fess up to decisions that were wrong, in which civilians got blown away by mistake. In this case, we are confronted with a talented female pilot, Jessica, who is removed from ...more
Pat Murphy
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I can't remember why I chose to read this book. It was on my Goodreads list of to read books and I decided to start finishing them off. I must have picked it from a recommended for me by Goodreads. Anyway, it was a good read, pardon the pun. The author is a winner of the Bellwether Prize, a foundation setup by Barbara Kingsolver to reward writers of socially engaged fiction. This story brings two separate characters and stories into a kind of focus that makes the reader see tough, conscience sha ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Isn't it wonderful to read a book that has a perfect ending? This is one of those books.

I was prompted to read this as Ron Childress is one of the authors who will be attending the 2016 Gaithersburg Book Festival. I try to read as many selections as I can before the festival. There are so many interesting authors in attendance (82 confirmed so far this year!) that I have a hard time deciding which ones I plan to hear speak. This is an excellent debut novel ~ a fast-paced, thought provoking book.

Beautiful cover and topical themes-- millennials caught in the cross-fire of war and economics-- drew me to this novel. Jessica is an Air Force drone pilot in Nevada. She drops bombs on terrorists, sometimes killing civilians in the process. Author Ron Childress writes: “Jessica had always charted her long-term future like a psychic predicting happiness: a disciplined twenty years would culminate in a military pension and return her to her beachside hometown in Florida.” Wall Street analyst Etha
Meg - A Bookish Affair
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2016
3.5 stars. "And West is West" is a thought-provoking debut novel by Ron Childress. In this day and age, wars are often fought from way off of the battlefield. Jessica is in the military and flies drones used on the battlefields of the Middle East from a safe stateside location. Ethan has found a way to harness political instability which in turn feeds into financial instability to make money hand over foot for his company. This novel explores ethics in the modern age where technology often blurs ...more
Michael Martz
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
And West is West is an interesting, serious, well-written, thought-provoking novel. 2 main characters facing separate troubling situations in their lives are followed in their respective searches for meaning and redemption.

Jessica, the more sympathetic character of the 2, was a 'drone pilot' who was involved in a strike that didn't turn out perfectly, ends up getting separated from the service, and walks out of a medical facility where she's being evaluated to lose herself and the rest of the w
Jul 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: ala-2015
*I received this book for free from the publisher and am providing an honest review*

So this book won the "PEN / Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction", but I felt that the "socially engaged" part that was advertised (drone strikes, making money from terrorist strikes) was more of a background setting for the stories rather than the focus. One of the characters, the drone pilot, does develop some moral feelings regarding her role but they are mostly centered around the accidental casualti
Jan 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I had high hopes for this novel at the beginning, and by the end I was a little disappointed, tbh. The fact that it was blurbed by my favorite author is really what persuaded me to pick it up, and it had great potential at the beginning. This is definitely about societal and political issues that are important today, and I was interested in the characters right away, but the two story lines never really came together for me - it seemed like it should have been two separate books entirely with ea ...more
Richard Gullickson
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is better than your average mystery story because the plot is more complex, the situations are more interesting, and the characters are better developed. Jessica is a AF drone pilot who hesitates in firing her missiles to protect civilian lives and then writes about it to her father in prison. Ethan is a programmer who writes a stock trading program for his bank that assesses the impact of international actions (e.g. drone strikes) on the stock market. His girlfriend Zoe is troubled by a dy ...more
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is a very well written character study. Oftentimes there are books that you know the author has simply written to fulfill a certain page limit- seems like 300 pages is the magic number. Usually I finish those books and think "well that last 50 or 60 pages were useless". And West is West is just the opposite of that scenario - I would have been happy to have continued reading another 100 pages of this book. I think the added length would have aided the plot which gets lost a bit in the ...more
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a great book, i really enjoyed it and it made for some interesting discussions with my husband when he asked for a short precis of the story.

As the blurb says on the back, "it offers an unsettling examination of the ways technology can isolate us from the consequences of our actions" - both main characters have a career in institutions which isolate them from the general public. One in the world of high finance, the other flying strike drones.

Justin Collard
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
A dark, yet true look at life. Following two seemingly unrelated characters with personal demons tied to the troubles of our world, you will hardly be able to put this novel down. Childress's dry, true description of the world and the humans that live in it will lead you to total immersion into this story. I truly enjoyed the twists, turns, and unexpected ending. ...more
John Machata
Oct 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
Flat! Characters are lifeless- several actually dead are as lively as the living. Virtually everything about this book seems contrived. Happily put it down after almost making it to the midway mark.
Life is too short to read books that are mere time fillers.
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Definitely a 4.75 star book for me. Kept me enthralled from the beginning.
Too slow. Didn't care about characters. Not much happened after 1/3 of book, so GOODBYE ...more
Eye of Sauron
Feb 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A review on the back announces this book as "A master study in how people can emotionally detach themselves from the damage they cause in our computer-driven world" (The Washington Post). I don't really think there's anything else I can add to that.

Despite a few punctuational errors (? maybe the lack of certain commas is a stylistic choice due to an intended effect? still kinda bothers me though), And West Is West is a thoughtful, original, and emotional read. It examines the lives of two rather
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This well-written book was not what I expected. I thought it would be more of a thriller, but it's not at all. It's really more stories about random people and how their lives intersect. Perhaps the author meant it to be more of a commentary on the depressing realities and absurdities of modern American life, touching on such subjects as financial manipulations, pill abuse, broken families, government bureaucracy, shallow romantic relationships, limited opportunities for the working class, and t ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
"A master study in how people can emotionally detach themselves from the damage they cause in our computer-driven world" (The Washington Post). This review is why I chose to read And West is West.

Normally I wouldn't be interested in reading about banking or the military, but a story about the ramifications of each employees job duties (a coder for a bank and an Air Force drone pilot) on themselves and society are fascinating as well as frightening.
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it
About ethics in the age of drone terrorism, and who profits from it.
"he began to see what should have been obvious, that antiterrorism to one country was terrorism to another."
Read in under just 24 hours, so clearly the story was compelling. Childress seems to enjoy character creation -- features several well-developed characters.

Read for category #6 - A book with a compass direction in the title.
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim Mastro
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a story about two characters whose lives are inextricably linked, even though they live in completely different worlds and have no initial contact with each other. Forces beyond their control disrupt their lives and at the same time bind them together. Good story, with a lot to say about how technology can corrupt.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: bellwether
This was a little all over the place, but I liked it anyway. I guess there were only two main characters, but it took me a long time to figure that out.

I kept waiting for the moment when the title would make sense or at least seem apropos, but that moment never came.
Jul 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
kept reading despite the obv orientalism in the first few pages. stopped when i read, "she is not thin enough to be a model but would be after a week of lettuce dinners." ugh ...more
Ginger Poulsen
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting, but too much language and adult content for me.
Sabahat Iqbal
Sep 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
Didn't finish. Characters were annoying. ...more
Toni Reese
I'm not going to give this a rating because I only got as far as p. 48. It just didn't grab me. ...more
Nov 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Perhaps the defining characteristic of this millennium is our isolation from each other despite being more connected, through technology, than any previous generation. Ron Childress’ novel, And West is West, explores how two lives can be utterly destroyed and rebuilt through our connection to other people.

“They’re kids!” Jessica hears herself say.
“Screw my eyes,” Voigt responds, and then he presses his earpiece against a shout even
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