Philipp Meyer

American Rust by Philipp Meyer

A couple months back, I posted about a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article regarding books about/set in Pittsburgh.  I had posted a link to the article on Twitter and one of my local Twitter friends (I’m sorry – I can’t remember who and I can’t find the conversation!) mentioned that they read this book and recommended it.  I downloaded it to my Kindle awhile ago and just finally got around to reading it.

American Rust” is a novel set in the fictional town of Buell, Pennsylvania in Fayette County (geographically, it’s right around here).  For those who don’t know, Pittsburgh falls into a region of the country commonly referred to as the “Rust Belt“, which refers to the abandoned and rusted mills and factories that closed up in the 1970′s due to the manufacturing industry decline.

The story is about two young men in their early 20′s – Isaac, an intelligent but quiet kid who desperately wants to get out of Buell and make a life for himself elsewhere, like his sister did by leaving and going to Yale, and Poe (that’s his last name), who was a football star in high school but opted not to go to college (when he could have) and is basically stuck in the little town with no future ahead of him.  One night, Isaac and Poe visit an abandoned plant and get into an altercation with some squatters and one of them ends up dead at the hands of, surprisingly, Isaac.

The local police captain, who also happens to have a “personal” relationship with Poe’s mother, suspects that Isaac and Poe has something to do with it, but a witness fingers Poe as the suspect in the man’s death.  Isaac decides it’s finally time for him to leave town so they don’t get caught, but Poe stays behind and is taken to jail for a crime that he did not commit (this occurs after Isaac takes off).  As Isaac makes his journey to California to start his life over, he encounters some difficult situations (and people) along the way.  Poe is put in jail and struggles with the decision about whether or not he’ll admit to anyone that it wasn’t him that killed the man.

While I did like the story and think it was interesting, I did have a few issues with this book.  First, I feel like it took me FOREVER to read.  The Kindle tells you what percentage of the book you’ve read and it just felt like it took me a lot longer than most books do.  Second, I’m not sure if this was done on purpose or if it was just a thing with the electronic version of the book, but the punctuation was horrible.  That leads into my third issue, that I felt like the characters were so stereotypical and I found it a tiny bit offensive.  By stereotypical, I mean that they were presented as fairly poor, not very intelligent (except Isaac, but he had some other issues), lazy, unsophisticated, and just very blue-collar.  I have nothing against people from Fayette or any of the other outlying, rural areas around Pittsburgh and I’m not saying that stereotype is true, and I understand that they may not be like someone like me, who works in downtown in a corporate environment and is used to the city/suburban environment, but I just don’t want readers from outside of Pittsburgh to think that all Pittsburghers are like that.  We’re not.  This isn’t me bashing the author or how he chose to create the characters, but I’m just sayin’.  Do yinz guys know what I mean n’at?

On the other hand, I love stuff about Pittsburgh and liked being able to picture the areas that they referenced in the book.  Some of the towns mentioned were Donora, Charleroi, Elizabeth, Uniontown, and probably a few more that I can’t remember.

Philipp Meyer actually is NOT from Pittsburgh, but from Baltimore, but apparently has friends and family who live in the area and that’s why he chose to base it here.  He says he had similar experiences in the area where he grew up.  This is his only book so far.

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Jaci has read 1 book toward her goal of 35 books.
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