American Rust: A Novel

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American Rust: A Novel

by Philipp Meyer

Random House Publishing Group | January 12, 2010 | Trade Paperback |

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The debut novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Son

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 arise from its loss. From local bars to trainyards to prison, it is the story of two young men, bound to the town by family, responsibility, inertia, and the beauty around them, who dream of a future beyond the factories and abandoned homes.

Left alone to care for his aging father after his mother commits suicide and his sister escapes to Yale, Isaac English longs for a life beyond his hometown. But when he finally sets out to leave for good, accompanied by his temperamental best friend, former high school football star Billy Poe, they are caught up in a terrible act of violence that changes their lives forever.

Evoking John Steinbeck's novels of restless lives during the Great Depression, American Rust takes us into the contemporary American heartland at a moment of profound unrest and uncertainty about the future. It is a dark but lucid vision, a moving novel about the bleak realities that battle our desire for transcendence and the power of love and friendship to redeem us.

Newsweek''s list of "Best. Books. Ever"
A Washington Post Top Ten Book of 2009
A New York Times Notable Book of 2009
An Economist Best Book of 2009
A Kansas City Star Top 100 book of 2009
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette''s Best Books of 2009
Idaho Statesman''s Best Books of 2009

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 400 Pages, 5.12 × 8.27 × 0.79 in

Published: January 12, 2010

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385527527

ISBN - 13: 9780385527521

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– More About This Product –

American Rust: A Novel

American Rust: A Novel

by Philipp Meyer

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 400 Pages, 5.12 × 8.27 × 0.79 in

Published: January 12, 2010

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385527527

ISBN - 13: 9780385527521

About the Book

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 arise from its loss.

Read from the Book

Book One 1. Isaac''s mother was dead five years but he hadn''t stopped thinking about her. He lived alone in the house with the old man, twenty, small for his age, easily mistaken for a boy. Late morning and he walked quickly through the woods toward town--a small thin figure with a backpack, trying hard to keep out of sight. He''d taken four thousand dollars from the old man''s desk; Stolen, he corrected himself. The nuthouse prisonbreak. Anyone sees you and it''s Silas get the dogs. Soon he reached the overlook: green rolling hills, a muddy winding river, an expanse of forest unbroken except for the town of Buell and its steelmill. The mill itself had been like a small city, but they had closed it in 1987, partially dismantled it ten years later; it now stood like an ancient ruin, its buildings grown over with bittersweet vine, devil''s tear thumb, and tree of heaven. The footprints of deer and coyotes crisscrossed the grounds; there was only the occasional human squatter. Still, it was a quaint town: neat rows of white houses wrapping the hillside, church steeples and cobblestone streets, the tall silver domes of an Orthodox cathedral. A place that had recently been well-off, its downtown full of historic stone buildings, mostly boarded now. On certain blocks there was still a pretense of keeping the trash picked up, but others had been abandoned completely. Buell, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Fayette-nam, as it was often called. Isaac walked the railroad tracks to avoid
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From the Publisher

The debut novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Son

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 arise from its loss. From local bars to trainyards to prison, it is the story of two young men, bound to the town by family, responsibility, inertia, and the beauty around them, who dream of a future beyond the factories and abandoned homes.

Left alone to care for his aging father after his mother commits suicide and his sister escapes to Yale, Isaac English longs for a life beyond his hometown. But when he finally sets out to leave for good, accompanied by his temperamental best friend, former high school football star Billy Poe, they are caught up in a terrible act of violence that changes their lives forever.

Evoking John Steinbeck's novels of restless lives during the Great Depression, American Rust takes us into the contemporary American heartland at a moment of profound unrest and uncertainty about the future. It is a dark but lucid vision, a moving novel about the bleak realities that battle our desire for transcendence and the power of love and friendship to redeem us.

Newsweek''s list of "Best. Books. Ever"
A Washington Post Top Ten Book of 2009
A New York Times Notable Book of 2009
An Economist Best Book of 2009
A Kansas City Star Top 100 book of 2009
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette''s Best Books of 2009
Idaho Statesman''s Best Books of 2009

From the Jacket

Praise for American Rust


"A novel as splendidly crafted and original as any written in recent decades, American Rust is both darkly disturbing and richly compelling. Philipp Meyer's first novel signals the arrival of a new voice in American letters."-Patricia Cornwell, author of Scarpetta

"With its strong narrative engine and understated social insight, American Rust is reminiscent of the best of Robert Stone and Russell Banks. Author Philipp Meyer locates the heart of his working class characters without false sentiment or condescension, and their world is artfully described. An extraordinary, compelling novel from a major talent."-George Pelecanos, author of The Turnaround


"This is strong, clean stuff. Philipp Meyer deserves to be taken seriously."-Pete Dexter, author of Paper Trails

"Philipp Meyer's American Rust is written with considerable dramatic intensity and pace. It manages an emotional accuracy, a deep and detailed conviction in its depiction of character. It also captures a sense of a menacing society, a wider world in the throes of decay and self-destruction."-Colm Tóibín, author of The Master

"Meyer has a thrilling eye for failed dreams and writes uncommonly tense scenes of violence . . . Fans of Cormac McCarthy or Dennis Lehane will find in Meyer an author worth watching."-Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Philipp Meyer grew up in Baltimore, dropped out of high school, and got his GED when he was sixteen. After spending several years volunteering at a trauma center in downtown Baltimore, he attended Cornell University, where he studied English. Since graduating, Meyer has worked as a derivatives trader at UBS, a construction worker, and an EMT, among other jobs. His writing has been published in McSweeney''s, The Iowa Review, Salon.com, and New Stories from the South. From 2005 to 2008 Meyer was a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas. He splits his time between Texas and upstate New York.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for American Rust


"A novel as splendidly crafted and original as any written in recent decades, American Rust is both darkly disturbing and richly compelling. Philipp Meyer's first novel signals the arrival of a new voice in American letters."-Patricia Cornwell, author of Scarpetta

"With its strong narrative engine and understated social insight, American Rust is reminiscent of the best of Robert Stone and Russell Banks. Author Philipp Meyer locates the heart of his working class characters without false sentiment or condescension, and their world is artfully described. An extraordinary, compelling novel from a major talent."-George Pelecanos, author of The Turnaround


"This is strong, clean stuff. Philipp Meyer deserves to be taken seriously."-Pete Dexter, author of Paper Trails

"Philipp Meyer''s American Rust is written with considerable dramatic intensity and pace. It manages an emotional accuracy, a deep and detailed conviction in its depiction of character. It also captures a sense of a menacing society, a wider world in the throes of decay and self-destruction."-Colm Tóibín, author of The Master

"Meyer has a thrilling eye for failed dreams and writes uncommonly tense scenes of violence . . . Fans of Cormac McCarthy or Dennis Lehane will find in Meyer an author worth watching."-Publishers Weekly

Bookclub Guide

1. In what ways does seeing the novel through the eyes of six dif - ferent characters affect your experience of the book? How would the book be different if seen through the eyes of only one char - acter? Which characters would be more or less likable if the reader saw them only from the outside? If you had to choose one char acter, whom would you choose to narrate the novel? Why?

 2. Does your opinion of various characters change throughout the book? How and why? 

3. Isaac, Poe, Lee, Grace, and Harris are all faced with important decisions that will affect not only their own lives but the lives of their loved ones. Discuss their various choices and what is at stake. Does each character make the right decision, in your opinion? 

4. One of Isaac's obsessions is the question of what differentiates humans from other animals. What does he ultimately conclude, and why? Do you agree with him? 

5. When the book begins, Poe, despite his athleticism, considers himself a coward. Do you agree with his assessment? Does he change by the book's end? 

6. Harris, by most conventional measures, is a good man at the book's beginning. Does he change by the book's end? Is he still a good man? Would society agree with you? 

7. Lee, according to her own words at the beginning of the novel, abandoned her family to save herself. Do you agree with this selfassessment? Does your opinion of her change between the beginning and the end of the book? What would you do in her shoes? 

8. Many of the characters in American Rust believe that they are not doing as well as their parents did-that their lives are less stable and their quality of life and job security are much worse than what their parents enjoyed. Is there any possibility of hope for these characters in the novel? Do you view the novel as ultimately grim or do you see it as hopeful? 

9. Isaac's plans change after a chance encounter with a group of indigents. What do you imagine his future might have been had he made it out of town? How much does fate determine Isaac's future, and how responsible is Isaac for his own fate? How does the novel address the theme of fate? 

10. Discuss the role of friendship in American Rust. Though Isaac and Poe seem to have little in common, they feel a strong sense of loyalty to each other. What kinds of sacrifices do they make for each other? How would you compare their relationship, which is based on a deep sense of fidelity, to other relationships in the novel? 

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