American Rust: A Novel

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American Rust: A Novel

by Philipp Meyer

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

American Rust: A Novel is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 2.
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, 8.27 × 5.43 × 0.83 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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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from In the Tradition of American Realism Books like this just aren't written much these days. "American Rust" is as the book jacket describes a throwback to the American tradition of John Steinbeck. The writing to me is reminiscent of a Theodore Dreiser novel. American realism set in the contemporary context. The characters are very well developed and the dialogue is sharp and believable. The plot is simple, yet allows for the characters to exhibit a considerable degree of flexibility. Meyer explores the economic decline, but still rich culture of small-town factory life. In this way, "American Rust" is similar to the Great Depression novels of Steinbeck. Ultimately though, I think the ending doesn't fit with the realist style of the rest of the novel. Such a simplistic and optimistic ending feels contrived and doesn't do justice to the job Meyer has done in painting his dark picture of a dying town. It's just not believable and betrays the novel's foundational message. Despite the ending, I think "American Rust" is well worth the read. A terrific novel about life in America's manufacturing heartland.
Date published: 2009-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous! Set in a small dying former steel mill town in Pennsylvania, this is the story of two young men (20yrs old). Issac, who is called the smartest person in town except for maybe his sister and had been expected to go straight to college after high school. But his mother dies, his father is in a crippling accident at work and his sister leaves for an ivy league school 3 months after their mother's death, leaving him to stay with his father. The other is Poe, the legendary high school football player who could have gotten a football scholarship to any college but had always been a bad apple and had no interest in doing any more school, even if it was on a scholarship. These two boys are strangely enough best friends, each other's only real friend to be exact and one day there lives and those around them are changed forever. Within the first chapter Issac decides he's hung around long enough, takes his father's four thousand dollars of savings and leaves to head to California to go to school. Along the way he meets Poe who doesn't want to come with him, but agrees to walk to the city limits with him. They spend the night in the abandoned steel mill and three homeless men arrive. Issac knows this is not going to be good and he tries to get Poe's attention and says he's going out for a leak. Poe knows what Issac is up to but he's in the mood for a fight. Issac hears a scream, some thuds and more noises that sound like Poe. He enters through the back door to find his friend, Poe, being held at knife point while another man is obviously about to go at him. Isaac picks up a large iron ball bearing and pitches it across the room hitting the man square in the face and obviously killing him. This is how the story opens. The book is told in a third person omnipotent point of view with each chapter coming from a selection of different character's view point: the two boys, Isaac's sister, Poe's mom, the chief of police and occasionally Isaac's father. The narrative takes a little getting used to as it feels strange to jump from one person's head to another's but it doesn't take long to get used too as this is a page-turner from chapter one onwards. The writing is a delight to read, the characters become very real to the reader and the story of the lives and thoughts of these people in a dead-end situation all around is very compelling. These people do not lead happy lives and the book is somewhat raw in it's telling but that only makes the characters more real. It is not ultimately a sad story though, as the characters learn about hope, love, friendship and redemption. I honestly didn't know whether this was going to be a book I'd like but I have to say it's the best book I've read this month. I know it's only January but I'll be holding the other books I read this year up to this one as I choose my favourites of the year. Recommended!
Date published: 2009-01-22

– More About This Product –

American Rust: A Novel

by Philipp Meyer

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 400 pages, 8.27 × 5.43 × 0.83 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?