Another monster book from McSweeney’s. This time around it’s a wide ranging historical montage of America around the turn of the last century when we were fighting wars in Cuba and the Philippines, and reconstruction was giving way to Jim Crow in the South.
The book has several main characters and dozens of minor ones, all struggling to make it in a society that is very much against them getting ahead. Several are forced into joining the Army to fight first the Spanish and then the native population in the Philippines, others work back-breaking jobs and rarely come out ahead.
It’s a great portrayal of racism, classism, and imperialism in America, and it’s sad to realize that more than one hundred years on from the story, we’re still struggling with the same issues.
I enjoy historical fiction, so I really liked the book. It’s also gorgeous, with a rich gold-leaf embossed cover and sewn binding. If you’re thinking of reading it, I’d get the hardcover. It’s heavy (and expensive), but instead of a mass market “hardcover,” you’re getting a real book the way they used to be made.