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American Rust

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  8,533 ratings  ·  1,195 reviews
Set in a beautiful but economically devastated Pennsylvania steel town, American Rust is a novel of the lost American dream and the desperation--as well as the acts of friendship, loyalty, and love--that arises from its loss. From local bars to train yards to prison, it's the story of two young men, bound to the town by family, responsibility, inertia, and the beauty around th ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 24th 2009 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 24th 2009)
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Deb For me the syntax added to the experience of reading the book because I don't think we think in complete sentences, but rather fragments of thought.…moreFor me the syntax added to the experience of reading the book because I don't think we think in complete sentences, but rather fragments of thought. It helped me feel I was in the minds of the characters. And what richly drawn characters they are!(less)

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Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,533 ratings  ·  1,195 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
”There was something particularly American about it--blaming yourself for bad luck--that resistance to seeing your life as affected by social forces, a tendency to attribute larger problems to individual behavior. The ugly reverse of the American Dream.”

The other side of that coin is that Americans tend to look at people who have a streak of bad luck as having brought that adversity upon themselves. Maybe they didn’t pray hard enough, or they kicked their dog too many times, or they slept arou

When I worked in France I covered a lot of industrial disputes, as you can imagine. Renault would try and close a factory, and suddenly the whole country was out on strike: I found it incredible when I first arrived. ‘Surely,’ I said to colleagues, ‘someone running a company has the right to decide whether or not to keep one of their factories open.’ They looked at me like I was insane. They didn't see the issue in those terms at all: for them, it was about a world with a colossal wealth gap whe
May 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grit-lit
awwww poor boook. i am only feeling three stars here but i am giving it four because the other reviews are so unfair. (not the one that says there has been no good fiction published this century - that one is so much laughable curmudgeonly elitist bullshit i can't even acknowledge it) but it's not a bad book. as far as the "confusing narration" "who is speeeeaking??" hint: the chapter names are the names of the narrators. so - no great mystery there. the run-ons and lack of punctuation?? it's mo ...more
Phillip Meyer’s The Son is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s a multi-generational epic about the undulating fortunes of a Texas oil family that beautifully explores the dimensions and consequences of America’s westward expansion. It manages to operate as both a pointed deconstruction of historical mythmaking while also being devastatingly entertaining.

It has taken me awhile, but I have finally circled back to American Rust, Meyer’s debut novel. American Rust takes place in contemporary, post-Great
D. Pow
Jan 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Philipp Meyer’s American Rust is one of the finest first novels I’ve read in the last several years, and a novel that many writers(regardless of their experience) would give their eye teeth or left nut to have written.

The novel follows the odd couple of Billy Poe and Isaac English from an act of brutal if needful violence to the furies of internal and external justice have exacted their balancing pound of flesh. Poe, is a behemoth, a former football star, a bit of a dunderhead with a short fuse. Is
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have been living in Pittsburgh for over seven years and in that time I have often visited the Mon River Valley south of the city of champions. Towns such as Monessen, Donora, New Eagle, Brownsville, Bell Vernon and others make up the Mon River Valley, They are towns nestled between the muddy brown Monongahela River and inspiring hillsides, each town has its own unique charm and the region is the setting of Philip Meyer's American Rust. Meyer's describes the valley strikingly well, I got a thr ...more
In "American Rust," Philipp Meyer’s debut novel, the steel mill in the fictional town of Buell, Pennsylvania closed in 1987 and was partially dismantled ten years later. Now the mill stands like an ancient ruin that is being taken over by vines and other vegetation. The only visitors are coyotes and deer and an occasional human squatter. Buell was “a place that had recently been well-off, its downtown full of historic stone buildings, mostly boarded now.” What is true of Buell is also true of ot ...more
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This style of prose worked for me: A flowing of the consciousness of six people dealing with the aftermath of an early, explosive plot bomb. These people exist against a backdrop of the declining steel industry with its attendant pathos and hopelessness. The human toil of corporate decisions, and loss of labor power, contributes to the tragedy that shrouds the otherwise breathtakingly beautiful Pennsylvania. Two young men, very different yet shoring up after high school and coping in different w ...more
Oct 19, 2013 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

American Rust by Philipp Meyer is set in the fictional town of Buell amid the decaying industrial landscape of Mon Valley Pennsylvania.

Isaac English and Billy Poe are best friends both still hanging around the decaying town of Buell and wanting out, Isaac is caring for his sick father while his sister Lee has moved away. Billy Poe has missed his chance to become a football star and finds himself attracting the attentions of the law on several occasions. Isaac plans his
Feb 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
ARC received through the First Reads giveaway program.

I found American Rust to be very satisfying. It reminded me of Faulkner's writing, except for the part where Faulkner drives me crazy! I was also reminded a bit of Empire Falls, as both take place in towns that have fallen on rough times.

There is definitely a plot, and it does move forward, but at a slower pace than expected for a story revolving around a murder. Meyer takes his time and explores the minds of the characters, whi
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
So I guess this is what is known as grit-lit. It's my first foray into this kind of book, but judging by this one, it won't be my last.

It's actually a very simple story, of one young man trying to get out of a very depressed town in Pennsylvania. He is accompanied for part of the way by a friend, and along the way, a death ensues. And basically the whole rest of the book is dealing with the ramifications of that encounter.

The chapters alternate from the points of view of
Nov 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I found this to be an engrossing first novel. Meyer has a different writing style than most authors. He captures the thoughts of the characters, it can change mid stream with no punctuation. I had no problem with this and thought it worked well for the story.

The setting is an economically devastated Pennsylvania community in which the steel industry has collapsed. Times are tough, we get a good look at the socioeconomic and political pressures of the characters. We are introduced to
Joy D
Steel plants have closed, and jobs lost in the Monongahela Valley, Pennsylvania, where this novel takes place. Poverty, violence, drugs, boredom, and desperation are prevalent. Former steel plant structures stand abandoned in the overgrowth. Two unlikely friends, Isaac (the smart but awkward kid) and Billy (the football jock) have stayed in their small town after graduation, missing their chance to go to college. Isaac has been taking care of his invalid father after his mother’s suicide. His si ...more
Feb 03, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction

American Rust is a very bleak tale that takes place in current-day Western Pennsylvania. The plot is set early on in the book - two of the protagonists find themselves in a situation beyond their control - and the aftermath and repercussions of their actions are what drive the very minimal story-line. The narration bounces back and forth between a connected set of characters, each with their own set of dreams and problems as they try to escape - figuratively and actually
Mar 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A really magnificent first novel. From the opening scenes Meyer created a world where lives hover on a knife's edge of disaster. Poor choices and bad decisions land his characters in nasty situations any of us would have difficulty confronting. Readers have a sense of the big picture only because the author tells his story from many points of view. But he doesn't tell us the future before he is ready and it is with a sense of impending doom that we watch the story unfold to what we fully expect ...more
Mar 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
Why can't the crop of young American writers learn to write properly constructed literature? Fyodor Dostoevsky's take on the subject, for God's sake. When the sum total of someone's experiential modus operandi has involved cell phones, laptops, iPods, electronic devices, 24/7 cable TV, football half-time shows, virtual carnal knowledge, scanners, bar codes, reality TV, et al., to ad infinitum, then what can one really expect from such a cultural meltdown?

My suggestion to the potential readers o
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
That was a good contemporary piece of American literature which usually disappoints me. Debut novel by Philipp Meyer and what a promising beginning for a new writer! Set in an province of Pensylvania USA at late 90's the book focuses around the consequences of the economic collapse of local industry on people's life, of middle and low class in a small town. Such as misery, poverty, crisis of personality, despair, things that many times leading to violence and absolutely wrong decisions. So are t ...more
Feb 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I gave this book three stars for the literary value. I had trouble with it though, because the gratuitous sex bothered me. I guess, my prudishness can get in the way of books like this.
K.D. Absolutely
May 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: John Grisham fans
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010 edition)
Shelves: 1001-non-core
Most Filipinos think that their relatives in the USA are better-off than them. Think again. The economy of the US has not really bottomed out yet. The continuous exodus of their jobs is still happening. Many Americans are losing their jobs because plants are closing down and being transferred to low-cost countries like China, India, Southeast Asian and Eastern Europe countries. Wherever it is cheaper to operate, they go.

That is the backdrop of this novel. The first novel of Philipp M
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a powerful and profound novel. The back cover blurb of the copy I have has a salutation from the UK Sunday Telegraph that reads: "In racing terms its by Of Mice and Men, out of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, ridden by Cormac McCarthy, and trained by Salinger J.D and Jack Kerouac......terrifically impressive". Not bad for a debut novel.

Set in the present in a small Pennsylvania milling town, this is the story of a group of people battling overwhelming economic and social woes. The overarching theme is what has happen
Sep 17, 2011 rated it liked it
There are a pile of really boneheaded reviews on here about this book. I'm still giving it three stars, but it doesn't deserve to be dragged through the mud just because some people don't understand innovative punctuation usage.

Look, whether you agree with the moral overtones of the book or not, the story is compellingly told and utterly sincere. There is an awful lot of carping on these reviews about the book's supposed atheist overtones, which I admit are pretty strong, but I take
Feb 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
For a book based on a great reality of our times, I found the characters to be completely unrealistic. The writing, from multiple characters points of view is muddled. How is it that so many people, who apparently don't communicate with one another at all, can have such identical, deeply profound thoughts? They are all thinking the same things about their home and times, yet when they communicate with one another, they aren't talking about anything, they are just cussing and then sleeping togeth ...more
Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it

Two young men from a dying Pennsylvania steel mill town are involved in a murder and its aftermath.....their desire to leave a hometown that offers no future...the ties of friendship and family that both strengthen and strangle..guilt and innocence, both in a legal and social sense...intensely times, the characters’ interior monologues seem to go on forever but there is a method to the madness.

i find the comparisons to Steinbeck a bit premature, but i see a lot of poten
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book, absolutely recommendable and worth reading.
Meyer has succeeded in create a vicious atmosphere and has created with Poe, Isaac and many more, really believable characters.
Its a gripping read, which will you not let you go until the last page.
Especially I enjoy very much the description of a society in decade and despair.
Wonderful, very good and it creates in your mind pictures so vivid, that you almost can literary see and touch them.
I give 5 stars!!!! ...more
Feb 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
When I first heard about this book, I thought it would be the average road trip novel, a glimpse of disillusioning the American Dream and a bit of coming of age for that skinny boy who is on the cover of the edition I bought.
But what I found was very different and surprised me in a very positive way.

American Rust is set in a fictional small town near Pittsburgh called Buell whose economic situation used to depend on the steel mills. But since the steel industry collapsed, the town has been dyi
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
Probably 4.5 corroded stars. An amazing first novel that spins a web of American despair and desperation set in a degraded rust belt town that is still in the midst of the Fall. It is a novel of hard compromises, silent heros, and people that grind on every day knowing the sun for them will not rise tomorrow. This is a novel that narrates the things we all do to survive in a universe that is slowly growing cold. It is written for and about the people we rely on to survive, those we hurt and the ...more
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
“American Rust” arrived as I was finishing Richard Russo’s “Bridge of Sighs.” I was not inclined to read two books back-to-back with what I thought would be similar settings – fading mid-Atlantic industrial towns – but, feeling an obligation to the LTER program to read the book promptly and post a review, I picked it up immediately. As it turns out, the two books, though equally satisfying, could not be more different.

I’ve always been a pushover for Richard Russo’s stories, unable to
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What happens to small Pennsylvania steel town after the steel mill shuts down? How do the people who once had a good life, with security and benefits, cope? American Rust deals with this: the American Dream, and its failure. What’s interesting is that the characters in this book don’t pine for the life that left them behind. Instead, they become resigned, they hope for nothing more. Take this quote, for example.

“He had slept through life, let the currents take him. He had let the cur
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-books
Depressing but very compelling and intriguing is how i describe Phillip Myers dark tale of two friends Isaac and Billy longing for a better life in an area devastated by the economic meltdown. Along the way they encounter all manner of things including a violent incident that has the ability to destroy all there plans and their lives.

The main themes displayed for me was the sheer bleakness of the environment with towns once thriving now full of closed down factories with decaying facade and bro
Feb 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book is wonderfully visceral. The description is very meaty and really makes the setting come alive. What I like most is how Meyer juxtaposes the characters off of each other. The chapters present focuses from alternating characters' points of view, but Meyer doesn't alternate just to present a different take on the events of the novel. Rather, the characters develop in relation to each other. I felt not only the conflicts in the character in dealing with the events that occur, but the conf ...more
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Philipp Meyer's novel, American Rust, was an Economist Book of the Year, a Washington Post Top Ten Book of 2009, a New York Times Notable Book, A Kansas City Star Top 100 Book of 2009, and an Amazon Top 100 Book of 2009.

Philipp Meyer grew up in Baltimore, dropped out of high school, and got his GED when he was sixteen. After spending several years working as a bike mechanic and volunte
“You ought to be able to grow up in a place and not have to get the hell out of it when you turn eighteen.” 21 likes
“All the things you needed to know in life—you didn’t learn them until you’d already made your decisions.” 5 likes
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