“Stunning.” —Michele Filgate, O, the Oprah Magazine
“Powerful . . . As haunting a postapocalyptic universe as Cormac McCarthy [created] in The Road, and as devastating a look as the fallout that national events have on an American family as Philip Roth did in The Plot Against America. . . . Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, American War, is an unlikely mash-up of unsparing war reporting and plot elements familiar to readers of the recent young-adult dystopian series The Hunger Games and Divergent.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.
Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.
An Amazon Best Book of April 2017: American War will give you chills. Set in in 2075, Omar El Akkad’s debut presents a fractured and frightening America, where the sun burns hot and the country has turned into war zones and refugee camps. Over the course of two decades, Akkad traces the fate of the Chestnut family, who flee their home in the south and spend the better part of their lives in a sprawling, impoverished encampment. This is where Sarat, a young, brave, tomboy, comes of age: “Perhaps the longing for safety was itself just another kind of violence—a violence of cowardice, silence, submission. What was safety, anyway, but the sound of a bomb falling on someone else’s home?” Albert Gaines, a radicalized Southerner, takes Sarat under his wing, equipping her with the fervor and tactics needed to win the war. Akkad piercingly describes the ravaged towns, the gel packets of fruit rations, the torturous effects of growing up in war. Written with precise care for the fictional truth—news articles, press releases, and oral histories emerge throughout – the book sounds a warning blast. American War is a disquieting novel of immense depth, and possibly a classic of our time. –Al Woodworth, The Amazon Book Review
“Follow the tributaries of today’s political combat a few decades into the future and you might arrive at something as terrifying as Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, American War. Across these scarred pages rages the clash that many of us are anxiously speculating about in the Trump era: a nation riven by irreconcilable ideologies, alienated by entrenched suspicions. . . . both poignant and horrifying.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“Whether read as a cautionary tale of partisanship run amok, an allegory of past conflicts or a study of the psychology of war, American War is a deeply unsettling novel. The only comfort the story offers is that it’s a work of fiction. For the time being, anyway.”—Justin Cronin, The New York Times Book Review
“El Akkad . . . has an innate (and depressingly timely) feel for the textural details of dystopia; if only his grim near-future fantasy didn’t feel so much like a crystal ball.” —Leah Greenblat, Entertainment Weekly
“Powerful . . . If violence and conflict feel distant, journalist Omar El Akkad’s debut novel brings them home. . . . Despite its future setting, it’d feel wrong to call American War a work of science fiction. Hell, it’d even feel off to call it dystopian, given that it’s so few steps removed from our reality.”—Kevin Nguyen, GQ
“American War is an extraordinary novel. El Akkad’s story of a family caught up in the collapse of an empire is as harrowing as it is brilliant, and has an air of terrible relevance in these partisan times.”—Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven