Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, American War, is a frightening look at the real world consequences brought about by a divisive political and social climate.  Set in the not-too-distant future, American society has been torn asunder by a second Civil War.  Instead of slavery being the root cause of the conflict, this time it is the President’s actions to limit the destructive effects of climate change.  

American War tells the story of Sarah T. Chestnut.  Sarah, or “Sarat” as she prefers to be called, has spent her entire childhood in Louisiana.  The novel charts Sarat’s transformation from an innocent child full of wonder and curiosity to a young woman possessed by hatred and a thirst for vengeance.  American War reveals how the true cost of conflict is far greater than the number of buildings destroyed or combatants killed.

In a recent interview with NPR, Omar El Akkad was asked if we are supposed to feel sympathy for Sarat.  His response captures the essence of American War: “No. I don’t think you’re supposed to have sympathy for her. My only hope is that you understand why she did it. I think one of the things that’s been lost in this incredibly polarized world we live in is the idea that it’s possible to understand without taking somebody’s side. So my only hope is that when you get to the end of the book, you’re not on her side, you don’t support her, you’re not willing to apologize for her — but you understand how she got to the place where she is.”

Omar El Akkad’s journalistic background has helped him create the plausible scenario at the heart of American War.  His nuanced writing provides insight into the devastating impact war has on one’s humanity. El Akkad has crafted an original tale and a welcome addition to the dystopian future genre. A persuasive, compelling, well-told debut novel.

Rating: 3.5/4

*All opinions my own. Post not sponsored.

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