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American War
American WarJoyce0750 (2)
Unchoose a book

How do I unchoose the book I didn't mean to choose, and then choose this one? Also I don't have money to pay for any book until after the third of each month. Can I pay for the books after that time in the month?

American WarLindsayReynolds (2)
“This country has a long history of defining its generations by the conflicts that should have killed them.”

The setting is this futuristic war-torn America rooted somewhat in environmental issues, and attempts to shine a light on what could come for us. It made me consider Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (a 1950's prediction of a time that is NOW), only it's scarier because I believe this could really happen.

I wanted so much more detail in regards to the time period! I was so intrigued in the first few pages with the borders/maps of the United States being altered due to climate and war. I wanted more world building here, with a lot more focus on the differences in the American landscape/geography and the environmental changes and political turmoil that have gone on for 70+ years. In this regard, I felt let down. There is much more focus on the personal life of Sarat then there is of America as a whole. I kept having to remind myself this is a novel, not a nonfiction prediction of our country.

It's clear from the title and the first few pages this is obviously not a happy story. But it is thought- provoking and eye-opening for a fiction novel. I'm craving more about this world that Akkad has set up.

American WarMaya4444 (1)
“If it had been you, you’d have done no different.” (SPOILER ALERT)


I finished this book in less than a week, and can’t stop thinking about it. There’s one quote in particular that haunts me:

“The universal slogan of war, she’d learned, was simple: If it had been you, you’d have done no different.” (p. 184)

What do you guys think? Is that true? If it had been us, would we have done no different?

In some ways, I think Karina (the character I quoted above) becomes a stand-in for the reader. She understands Sarat, she gets where she’s coming from and why she is the way she is, but she’s not sympathetic to her. She dislikes her, doesn’t trust her. She openly admits she doesn’t think Sarat is worthy of love, even though she feels sorry for what happened to her, even though she wants her to heal.

I think the reader is meant to feel torn, the way Karina does. Sarat is our protagonist. We’ve watched her grow up, seen all her strengths and admirable qualities. We know what she’s been through, and we understand why she’s become so broken and vengeful.

Should we feel sympathy for her? Or just contempt? Is she a tragic figure? Or an irredeemable mass murderer, responsible for the deaths of over a hundred million people?

Or is she some combination of both? Can her horrific crimes be both unforgivable and understandable at the same time? Can we simultaneously condemn her actions and comprehend them?

If it had been us, would we have done no different?

We like to put people into clear-cut categories: good, evil, hero, villain, patriot, terrorist. What I love about this book is that it blurs all those lines. It forces us to confront the ugly, terrifying question: If it had been you, would you have done no different?

And if the answer to that question is anything other than a resounding no, if we cannot be 100% certain we would have acted very differently than Sarat, then we have to wonder - in that case, who are we to paint our enemies as vile, inhuman monsters? If we might have done the same, had we been in their shoes?

I suspect that, under the right set of conditions, we’re all capable of unspeakable evil. At the very end of A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens wrote, “Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms.” That line has always stuck with me because it rings true. If you subject people to enough horrific suffering, this is what they will become.

It makes perfect sense to me that Sarat - a good, decent person at the start of the novel - became someone who knowingly unleashed a plague that killed multitudes. I would never in a million years excuse that decision. But I do understand it.

If it had been us, would we have done no different?

I think it’s likely, or at least plausible, that we all have the potential to do what Sarat did. To me, this just underscores how counterproductive it is to villainize people like Sarat, and how incredibly important it is to prevent the conditions that produce them.

What do you guys think? Would love to hear other people’s thoughts!

GraceJinselli (6)
I do not like what Sarat did, but I do understand why she did it. She took from a world that had taken everything from her. Was it right? No. Can I understand her? Yes. I believe the goal was to make us feel torn, and it worked. I was torn, I was happy she loved her nephew enough to do what she did but I was upset because she couldn't let her anger die. She killed all those she used to hold dear, save for a select few. Suffering, horror, and trauma mutates a person's mind and how he or she views the world. Sarat is the perfect example.
American WarValDiPietro (2)
American War

I struggled to get through this book. Just not my cup of tea.

StacyMcIntyre (1)
Same here. I want to finish it, there are parts of the story that pull me in, but I've started skipping the parts between chapters giving the details of the war because they are very tough to follow/picture and don't really seem to add to the story. Reading what's happening as described by the characters is enough.
American Warpm (18)
Didnt finish

I only got about 100 or so pages into this book when I realized I hadn't had the urge to pick it up for like a week. So I'm moving on to my picks from this month.... I may try and read it another time, but should I??? I just couldn't really seem to get into it

Kristin (3)
I struggled with the book and actually gave up probably around 100 pages as well. I read a few other books and then just last week I picked it up again and started at the very beginning. I did have to force myself a bit to keep going but now I'm glad I did. I just finished it yesterday and thought it was excellent. I have to admit that it took a while; I was about halfway when I finally thought "wow, this is really good".
pm (18)
This is hopeful!!! I got Pachinko and Dark Matter in the box along with American War and haven't gotten around to them yet, but I think after I read those Ill give American War another shot.
katedee (1)
I also got Pachinko and American War in the same box. I read American War first and trucked through pretty slowly. I ultimately finished it and in the end I felt glad to have finished the story and I felt like I gained something from it, but I sped through Pachinko in a third the time (despite how much longer it is) and looooved it. I thought it was worth finishing American War, but definitely had a hard time getting into it.
I struggled with this one initially too, but was glad that I finished it. Dark Matter, on the other hand, I devoured and loved.
TonyaGurno (10)
I was surprised at how long this took me to get to through but I'm glad I did. I think it's just a tough read because it's so raw and real and not a happy book. I recommend finishing it though because it really makes you think!
gabriellew (6)
Yeah, I couldn't finish it either. Something about the writing felt too stiff to me and I couldn't get into it completely. I kinda wish I hadn't picked it.
BereniceMB (6)
I have been staring at my pick for this month everyday since I received it telling myself "you don't get to start it until you finish American War." But I'm giving up. I feel like the discussion on this book has become a support system for those who hate leaving books unfinished but had to break their own rules with this one.
Jaime (14)
I read through it pretty slowly...I had the same experience as you where I just couldn't get into it. I don't think I ever really did get into it either, I just kept slowly trucking along and eventually only finished it because I was steadily getting closer to the end. Never got engaged really.
pm (18)
Yeah I think I'm going to try and re-read it at a time where I just don't have anything else to read and see if I can truck through it
American Waracapaldi (2)
Better as a Series?

Does anyone else think that this book would have been better as a series? Despite the differences in subject matter, I kept thinking of Justin Cronin's "The Passage" trilogy as I made my way through this book. Don't get me wrong - I did wind up thoroughly enjoying the novel by its end, but I felt that there was a richness missing that I craved throughout Sarat's story. I wanted more detail, more development, and more time spent on each stage of her life. The same goes for the other characters in the novel. I think that the story could have easily, and successfully, spanned three books.

AnnieKate (5)
Now that you say that, I totally agree. I was fascinated by the state of the country, looking back at the maps as reference points throughout, but you're right, I wanted more information. I wanted, deeply, to have a fuller understanding of Sarat, her family, the choices being made. Things were just glanced over so quickly.
American Warstaceface (10)

Am I the only one who thinks this would make a great movie?!?

KristenHansonAlexander (11)
As I was reading it I saw the movie clearly so I see what you are saying. I would almost see it more as a movie than a book.
NicoleJacobsma (12)
Directed my Alfonso Cueron. I'm thinking the style being similar to "Children of Men."
American WarEmilyStroud (8)

Where to begin? I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book, particularly to those who have any interest in politics and/or current events. This novel is very powerful and thought-provoking with many underlying political issues that we are currently experiencing globally. I finished it several days ago and it has been on my mind ever since. The author depicts a situational/futuristic America that can be comparable to the Middle East in today’s world. It is overwhelming the amount of pain and tragedy the protagonist experiences during the growth of her character, which allows the audience to generate an understanding, if not even have a little empathy, towards extremists at a time of war. There is simply no black or white. I can see how this book wouldn’t be for everyone, but I loved this book.

TonyaGurno (10)
I did not mean to post the comment below three times, my web page is freaking out. Sorry!!
EmilyStroud (8)
That is perfectly okay - I'm so happy to see I have a response! :D It certainly puts things into perspective, doesn't it? I'm thrilled to know that you also loved this book. I as well wish more people (Americans) would open their eyes to a lot of things that are happening, particularly with welcoming Syrian refugees.
TonyaGurno (10)
I agree! I think it's so clever that the author basically switched the places in power. In the book, America is the one fighting a Civil War and the Middle East now has the power and freedom. I think this is something we take for granted today in America. We know there are horrible things happening in the Middle East, but we just go on living our day to day. We are safe here, we don't have to worry about those things. At first when I was reading the book I thought, "Why doesn't the Bouzazi Empire help?" but that's exactly what the people in the Middle East ask about America today! It really shows us Americans how it must feel for the people in Middle East today, and how it affects their people. I wish more people would read this book so they can open their eyes to a lot of things that are happening today. I loved this book too.
TonyaGurno (10)
I agree! I think it's so clever that the author basically switched the places in power. In the book, America is the one fighting a Civil War and the Middle East now has the power and freedom. I think this is something we take for granted today in America. We know there are horrible things happening in the Middle East, but we just go on living our day to day. We are safe here, we don't have to worry about those things. At first when I was reading the book I thought, "Why doesn't the Bouzazi Empire help?" but that's exactly what the people in the Middle East ask about America today! It really shows us Americans how it must feel for the people in Middle East today, and how it affects their people. I wish more people would read this book so they can open their eyes to a lot of things that are happening today. I loved this book too.
TonyaGurno (10)
I agree! I think it's so clever that the author basically switched the places in power. In the book, America is the one fighting a Civil War and the Middle East now has the power and freedom. I think this is something we take for granted today in America. We know there are horrible things happening in the Middle East, but we just go on living our day to day. We are safe here, we don't have to worry about those things. At first when I was reading the book I thought, "Why doesn't the Bouzazi Empire help?" but that's exactly what the people in the Middle East ask about America today! It really shows us Americans how it must feel for the people in Middle East today, and how it affects their people. I wish more people would read this book so they can open their eyes to a lot of things that are happening today. I loved this book too.
American WarTeresa (4)
Not what I expected, re: the war

There is no denying that the author did his research and is a talented author. However, I was very disappointed because I went in expecting this to be far more futuristic than it was. I understand that Sarat was in a war zone, but in my mind I imagined that war would be much more technological- in many parts of this book I felt like we reverted back to the initial civil war. Sure fossil fuel was the basis for the war, and occasionally the solar powered advantages in the North were mentioned- but I really wished for more advances, perhaps I expected the book to be a bit more sci-fi than it was.

That, and the unlikeability of Sarat really made this book drag for me. I had higher expectations overall.

kankrum3 (53)
I agree a lot of times it felt like the early 1900s not whatever year it was suppose to be in the book.
AnnieKate (5)
I think it needed that feel. We would lose so much of what is standard fare if we were truly cut off the way the south was. I found the interweaving of old times into now to be one of the more interesting facets of this book.
KristenHansonAlexander (11)
I feel like the only thing they mentioned were tablets. I do like how Gaines office held so much from the "Pre-war" time. I see what you are saying though, I guess I pictured a few more differences.
BrittanyK (2)
I agree with you. I am not quite finished with the book. My BOTM was The Impossible Fortress and I chose this book as an add on. It is taking me forever to finish simply because I am just not that into it. Like you said, even though it takes place in a war zone, it lacks the technological aspect of our future. I am a huge fan of sci-fi and this book so far is not living up to my expectation.
kelseyk (2)
late to the party here and while I do have to keep reminding myself that it is the future, I think that this kind of war zone future is pretty realistic. Not everything will advance so fast- big technological advances in fuel use? sure. everybody having hoverboards, I dont think so (personally!). It really does seem like what would happen in the rural areas of america in a war zone.
rtally13 (1)
While I totally understand your point of view and your expectations of it being much more futuristic, I think the author actually did a great job depicting the near future of the U.S. If you think about it, the Back to the Future movies showed the future (that actually is right now, which is weird...) as being highly advanced, however the reality is not quite as "futuristic" and glamorous as the movies made it appear. I think by showing that the future of the country is filled with more solar powered technology that was less glam and more utilitarian the author did something that a lot of people who try to write about the future fail to do: predict what it will actually be like rather than what people would prefer it to be like. At least, that's how I read the book.
Teresa (4)
That's a good point- perhaps my Jetsons-like view of the future was based on want and not necessarily realistic!
staceface (10)
I totally agree. I'm about 2/3 done the book and I keep imagining an early 1900s mindset. At one point she mentioned the guards watching their tablets and I thought,"Oh wow they have tablets during this time?" Then I remembered this is actually the future.
American WarKate (6)
Why did Gaines disappear?

I've been looking forward to American War since I first heard about it, and I was thrilled that it was a BOTM pick. And I did like it -- did not love it, but liked it a lot. There were a few random things that bugged me, though.

I felt like Gaines should have had a bigger role throughout the book -- I felt like he only just barely entered and wasn't mentioned again until nearly the end (and I do agree with how his character ended up). I don't know, perhaps I expected a more obvious indoctrination. But perhaps that's the point -- indoctrination can be more subtle than we expect.

What do you think?

Also, I felt like it was quite detached from most characters until the voice shifted to Benjamin. As soon as that happened, I feel like the book transformed and got a million times better. Prior to that, it kind of reminded me of American Gods by Neil Gaiman -- a story with an interesting plot, but you couldn't read the emotions of a single character.

laurenlahann (2)
She definitely killed him at the end though, right?? I know it was very heavily implied I just need someone to confirm for me lol
KathrynE (4)
I 100% agree with this. I totally understand that Sarat is supposed to be a very detached and blank character, but it was almost so much so that I couldn't develop an emotional connection with her. I found myself kinda bored until the narrator shifted.
KristenHansonAlexander (11)
I tried to connect with her but even when you got a glimpse of her it was immediately closed up. I just couldn't get in her head.
acapaldi (2)
Totally agree! For a character with such a huge influence on the trajectory of Sarat's life, I expected him to maintain a prominent place in this book. But man, when he did make the brief re-appearance and said the line about "they said they would hurt my daughter" (or something like that) my heart BROKE for Sarat. She'd looked at him like a father! Ugh. Overall though, we're on the same page. I think his character could have been more fully developed, and Sarat could have confronted the idea that she was just a tool being used to meet Gaines' ends if the novel was either longer or made into a series. P.S. I loved the first 2/3 of American Gods and then couldn't get through the end. Granted, I got the author's extended edition or whatever, but PHEW - I can't remember the last time I skimmed the final 100+ pages of a book just to finish it!
KaraBernardo (3)
I agree with you. I honestly felt like he didn't have a huge role and he should off. I wanted to know more about Gaines. I loved when Omar El Akkad switched POV I wanted to hear more with his views. I loved it and it kept me interested. I never heard of AMERICAN GODS before, i might just add that to my TBR list. :)
AshleyYounkman (9)
I 100% agree with you about the whole story shifting when we gained Benjamin's perspective. The beginning of the novel I was intrigued; the middle, my interest waned. But at the end is where I couldn't stop thinking about the next time I could get back to reading. As for Gaines, I wanted more. But I did like how life got his own revenge on him. This book made me feel like I was in a tide of emotions. I constantly was going back and forth from compassion to hatred for these characters and the North vs South, really thought provoking.
SarahTheFlutist (1)
I agree with you! I normally fly through books, but I often had to set this one down so I could process what was going on. I thought this was well-written and very thought provoking. I think that the author's experience as a journalist helped him make some decisions with the plot line that made this book feel at times like it was a work of non-fiction. Benjamin's perspective was what hooked me right to the end!
American Warkankrum3 (53)
first DNF

I've been with book of the month since July and this is the first book I've DNF'd. I just found it boring and slow moving. Not much action going on and I couldn't get into it. I read around 220 pages of it (I know so close) but I just don't care what happens to read the rest. I might just look up spoilers for it and call it good.

KathrynE (4)
I definitely think the last quarter of the book is the best, but I totally agree that it is SLOW. There just isn't a very deep emotional connection to any of the characters. I feel it is trying to be too much of a "prophecy thought provoking" book, but it doesn't really matter if the story doesn't hold me.
mypaperheart (8)
It started really lagging for me around page 200, too. I'm on 240 right now and forcing myself to pay through because everyone says it picks up. The beginning was really good but the middle is so hard to slog through. And I can't stand Sarat so it's making it that much harder!
KaraBernardo (3)
I promise you the last part of it is good! Don't give up! I know this book isn't for everyone but the 100 pages left is amazing and you don't know maybe you'll enjoy it?
kankrum3 (53)
maybe i've left my bookmark in it so perhaps I will finish it out before the end of the year but for now i have other books i want to get too :)
Kate (6)
I know it's hard -- but the last 25% of the book is where it takes off and becomes so much better. I think you'd like it. Don't give up just yet!!
Thank you. I just couldn't get through it. BUT....I can see where people would enjoy it. Just not for me.
American WarTucker (3)
Significance of the Title/Setting

I’m curious how you all interpret the meaning of “American War,” besides the obvious of the story’s setting during an American civil war. To me, the title condemns America for its refusal to shift from dangerous fossil fuels to renewable energy - a dependence that created an unstable global environment. In a way, the title paints the US as the main culprit for creating a world wrecked by climate change. No one country can be solely blamed for global warming, but America’s history of conquest and thirst for power - recently, for oil - represent the problems that created such inhospitable global conditions. It was this desire for dominance that pitted the North and South against one another, and encouraged other nations to facilitate America’s collapse.

There’s a lot more I want to say: why the South refused to shift to clean energy; parallels to what America’s experiencing in the book to what countries like Syria are experiencing today; among other things. Let me know what you think!

NicoleJacobsma (12)
What an interesting question! In thought that the emphasis was on "American." I thought the author meant us to compare this Second US Civil War with the civil wars going on in the Middle East right now. Sarat helps us to understand the extremist terrorist mentality, which is something I think we remove ourselves from here in the US. Akkad calls it "American War" because it emphasizes that we may not be as removed from the present wars as we think we are.
Tucker (3)
Yes! America isn’t as removed from present day wars because it is partly responsible for them, and is is likely on a similar path. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I ultimately felt for Sarat. The war devastated her. Although she seemed to be improving, I don’t know if she wanted to. As you said, Sarat helps us understand the terrorist mentality, not accept it. Reading and experiencing her story, I empathized for Sarat. And empathy can be a great catalyst for change. I also think the setting reminds us how America isn’t far removed from climate change. Perhaps the South wasn’t willing to change its ways because it didn’t face the same effects as other countries. Yes, sea level rise took away the land, but they just moved inland, whereas other countries were forced to create cities underground. Same can be said to explain America’s attitude toward climate change today. There’s a disconnect between what the average American hears about climate change and what she experiences. Will it take stories like Sarat’s to move us, or will it be devastating storms and droughts that leave us no other option?
ropeadope (3)
I also thought it was the author's cleverly realistic way of putting Americans in the position of global inferiority and civil war induced hardship. But having also wondered as to the depth of the title (if any) I clung to the one time it was referenced in the book, when Yosef (Joe) gives Sarat the opportunity to take her ultimate vengeance. He says to her, after admitting he is acting in total self-interest, "Come, now...Everyone fights an American War." That stuck with me because it feels like the author is trying to surreptitiously clue us into a greater meaning. That perhaps the very idea of an "American War" is spurious in nature...
8little_paws (87)
I loved this exchange. I agree I believe it means that the US involvement in foreign affairs essentially has started many many overseas wars, and the chickens have come home to roost if you will.
Kate (6)
Whenever I hear someone mention the book's name for the first time, I can't help but think of Craig Robinson saying, "Might be some kind of...hot tub time machine." :-P
Tucker (3)
Do you have the page number for that exchange between Yosef and Sarat?
ropeadope (3)
Sure! Bottom of page 306
American Warndarty (17)
Sarat and Benjamin

This was my first BOTM. I really enjoyed American War.

  • Spoilers* All though something that really irriates me with Sarat is why she takes Benjamin from his parents. I understand why she felt like she needed to release the plague. But with her childhood of everyone being taken from her why on earth did she do that to Benjamin? I HATED that she did that to him.
staceface (10)
In one of her letters to Benjamin, she expressed how she thought there was no one good left in the world until she met him. I think that's why she never made an attempt to save Karina and Simon too because she thought they were tarnished. And she couldn't warn them because Karina wanted to move north and probably would have turned her in.
ReneeTerrebonne (9)
She did it to save Benjamin! She knew the plague would reach him if he stayed in the South, so she relocated him to Alaska.
ndarty (17)
I know why she did it! But losing your family can destory someone. She knows that All to well. She made no attempt to save his parents.
Teresa (4)
Couldn't agree with you more- I think that her desire to save him was great, but her life was so clearly shaped by all of the family she lost, she should have considered the impact this might have had on him
JenONeal (30)
I have been thinking about this a lot too. I've come up with a few possible explanations and I ultimately think it is consistent with her character by the end of the book. She explains to her sister-in-law that everything about her that could have healed/loved/forgiven was dead. She expresses a desire to reunite with her family-- specifically she wanted to rejoin her sister in death. She also doesn't seem to see her brother as her true brother anymore... as in his essential nature that she found to be familial had been killed when he was shot. I think these could all come together to the decision to not warn her brother and sister-in-law. Further, as much as she hated Gaines for in many ways creating her, I think she still admired him to some extent. By doing what she did to Benjamin she was ensuring that her vengeance-fueled cause could continue. Sarat maintained both of their legacies. I'm so happy you got such a stellar read for your first BOTM!
AshleyYounkman (9)
I agree. I was disturbed by her betrayal to poor Benjamin. But it cements her character for me. She was one that my heart broke for with a many redeemable qualities while at other times she made me so angry! It surprised me because how could someone do what she did to another person when knew how excruciating it was from her own experience. But she is a extremist. She didn't warn her brother bc he was a shadow of her diehard rebel brother and that was unacceptable. That broke my heart, he had come so far and had healed into a better man. And his wife, she always hated her bc of where she was from. Nothing would change that fact no matter how much she loved her brother. And for her to want to take the to the North solidified that. That part bother me though, it seemed as if she was encouraging them going to the North because that's where they had a "future". Why go that far?
American Warkankrum3 (53)

I am about a 100 pages on here and not really enjoying the book. I came on here to read what everyone else says and everyone seems to love it and it looks like there is some exciting thing to come (don't forget to post spoiler warnings people!!!). So I'm going to give it a little bit more but if it doesn't get better I have a feeling this could be the first book I DNF since i have joined BOTM back in July.

Bambett (6)
Although I did like this book overall, there were some parts that were difficult to get through. The last section of the book was by far the best.
kankrum3 (53)
I read another chapter and it's getting better so I'll keep going with it. :) Hopefully it continues to get better and better as I go and my worry will be for nothing.
Bambett (6)
That sounds about like my experience. I would come to a part I really enjoyed and then there would be a period where it dragged, then I would enjoy it again. But when it was all said and done, it was worth the read!
American WarBea (5)

So I just finished American War. At first, I was a little reluctant to start the novel because I prefer more fantasy and crime based novels. However, at one point, I couldn't put the book down for hours. My thoughts on this novel was that it was so powerful. The book itself was well written and you can vividly see how a young girl is transformed throughout the book, because of the horrible experiences that she encounters. One thing I love about reading a good novel is how it jerks you in a direction when something really good or the opposite, something bad happens. That moment came to me when you learn that Albert Gaines, the one who bestowed so much in a young Sarat, is the very person that caused her so much pain, suffering, and strife in the end. All the while, Joe or Yousef, asking her to release the plague and it was for personal interest only. As a reader, this is definitely one book where you, as a reader, can feel for the characters in the book. I do not usually re-read books that I have read after I put them down, for a while, but this is a book that I could definitely pick back up.

Bea (5)
Oh sorry! I really thought I included a part that says spoilers alert. My bad.
KyleBloom (1)
Please warn about spoiler alerts !! This book is on the way to me and I was curious in a general way about this book perusing the discussions and I think you spoiled a big plot twist.
American WarBambett (6)
I am left with questions...

I enjoyed this book. I especially liked the part about Ben Jr and Sarat's relationship. Can someone tell me why Martin and Bud Jr. Baker let Sarat through the border when it was apparent that they may have recognized her as their father's killer? If it was out of forgiveness, why couldn't Sarat do the same? Why do you think she did not save her brother and his wife when it was well within her power to do so? These are just some questions I had as I read it. This book will definitely stay with me for a long time. It was written from a very different perspective.

JenONeal (30)
The way I interpreted this was that Martin and Bud were parallels to Sarat and Dana. The scene where they were first introduced draws this connection, I think. Dana was always the softer one, more prone to forgiveness. Maybe Martin and Bud were the same? Dana could always ease Sarat, take her down a notch. Maybe if she had never died the plague wouldn't have happened? I don't know. I think a lot of these questions are one of the things I loved most about the book. Like real war, this war was built out of personal agendas, something that can never really be fully accessed.
laurenlahann (2)
Mind. Blown. Great insight on connection between sets of twins!
Bambett (6)
I see the connection now! Thanks for the great insight!
amilliknives (1)
I was wondering the same thing that is really my only pressing question. What compelled him to let her go? Did he know about the sickness? Did he already know they were done for? Ugh such a good book.
American WarJJones (2)
External Involvement

I enjoyed this book. The part that I found the most thought provoking was the role that Bouazzizi Empire had in the movement of people, perpetuation of violence, and the demise of so many Americans mostly without any awareness of their part in it. The Role that Albert Gaines and Joe played in Sarat's experience and motivation had a huge impact on the entire civil war. It made me think of how much of the civil conflict across the globe is being strategized and manuevered by outside entities seeking to gain from the conflict.

mnoury16 (7)
This is interesting to think about! It seems with allies and enemies across the world, everyone has something to lose or gain from conflict. And even though it is a civil war, other countries have a stake in it. It was an interesting perspective to witness how an extremist is "born" and how families and entire cities can be manipulated in this way.
American Warrachco93 (6)
mind blown

(spoilers included) I was reading this book at a moderate pace (have a habit of reading books too fast but forgetting them 2 weeks later) but as soon as I got to the part where the perspective changed to Benjamin Jr. I could NOT stop reading. I had a feeling that Sarat would never fully heal but I didn't think she would actually release the second plague. At first I was angry with her because I thought she was finding peace within her relationship with her nephew, Benjamin Jr.. After I finished the book, I understood that it couldn't have ended any other way - she had to do what she felt she had to do. This was such an absorbing read, I'm sure it'll stick with me for a long time.

Really looking forward to reading everyone else's opinion!

ropeadope (3)
I agree! I was captivated by how I simultaneously felt sympathy for Sarat but, due to excellent writing by Akkad, she was always too distant to love. I felt sorrow for the little girl we met at the beginning of the book who loved to explore and learn. Then as she grew, she became so cold and devoured by the war that honestly, at times, I didn' like her. However, before Sugarloaf she at least had drive, passion, a reason to be who she was. When she told Bragg "f*** the south" before going to release the plague I couldn't but help feel disappointed. It was then that I truly realized she had lost everything. She wasn't even fighting a cause anymore, just pain. Which made me wonder if what she did for Benjamin Jr. was solely merciful for him or if it was also an act of mercy for herself? Benjamin was the last person she considered family. Could it be that she saved him because she couldn't bare, even in a short life, to know that he would also cease to exist?
Beth (3)
Yes! The Bragg exchange about the South was where I felt an abrupt disconnect with Sarat (not in a bad way, it's just where the story was leading). Everything else I got, I understood, I agreed with, I sympathized - every action she took I could see why. But after she said "f*ck the south" my heart sank. That was where I knew she ruined and completely unable to be saved. She was mad at the world for leading her to where she was. She wanted to die more than anything at that point. People are making a big deal about Gaines, but he's not the story. He used Sarat. That's it. He's a nobody - even Sarat knew it.
American WarHunterChanel (7)
Asking for Clarification

I am LOVING this novel. I'm over halfway through, but keep getting distracted with this thought: is the North ACTUALLY the "bad guy" or are we meant to sympathize with a person born on the wrong side of the war (Sarat) experiencing the atrocities of wartime? It seems to me like this is a repeat of the first Civil War aka the South wrongfully stuck in their old ways (slavery --> fossil fuels). I keep wanting to know what life in the North is like and if they're actually evil or that's just the perspective we're seeing. Thoughts?

NicoleJacobsma (12)
I think the author intends is view the war from Sarat's perspective. Sarat becomes an extremists and we have extremists in the world today, but often have a hard time understanding how they become that way...Sarat helps us get at least one perspective of that. I still think what she did was just evil...she killed so many innocent people who did not deserve to suffer.
AshleyYounkman (9)
And killed her own people! Im having trouble understanding what exactly made her turn on the South, "F#@$ the South". And then when Layla said "in this part of the world, right and wrong ain't even about right and wrong. It's about what you do for your own." HELLO! what she did to your own was murder your entire town!! This is the effect of this incredible novel on me, I am filled with rage and at the same time compassion. He did an incredible job getting us inside the perspective of a extremist.
mnoury16 (7)
I kept wondering this as well! I think the intention was to show that there isn't always a clear winner/loser in a war as, ultimately, everybody suffers.
Kyla (3)
My thoughts exactly. I'm less than a third of the way through and I've been hoping they will show us what the North is actually like.
American WarNicoleJacobsma (12)
Must read for 2K17

This is only my second month with Book of the Month and my mind is blown. In my opinion, this is a must read for 2017 because Akaad paints a world in which our position is switched with the Middle East (which is quite relevant to today for obvious reasons). Now, we Anericans are the ones being displaced due to war, we Americans are not advancing because of the instability, and extremism is breeding here, in America. This book gives the reader a different perspective on the tragedies of modern war.

Sarat is the protagonist, but I really don't feel like she is a good character or person at all. I disliked her character and (SPOILER) when she decided to carry the sickness into the North, I was flat out mad at her. She seemed to be healing, but did not allow herself to build the personal strength to refuse to kill everyone, and this was very frustrating as the reader.

I did personally love the narrator. I was so confused when the novel switched to 1st person, but it was a really cool stylistic twist to make the omniscient narrator a character-and pretty much the only completely good person in the book.

If you are thinking my thoughts are jumbled as I write this, it's because this book did just that to me-it jumbled my thoughts. It haunted me, it made me question, and it made my brain run in a thousand different directions.

American WarAshleySmith (11)
Better Than I Expected

This isn't something I would normally have picked out to read, but I'm glad I did! I flew through it in 2 days just because it was so interesting and it held my attention well (obviously). It was very thought provoking, and though I'm not hardcore into history (war knowledge) or politics, it was still easy enough for me to follow. I loved that there were interviews and current event type passages between the chapters of the main story to give the reader an idea of what was going on as a whole rather than just through Sarat's eyes. I wondered a little bit about the absence of technology...did the storms and state of the nation just sort of wipe out the advancement of technology?

DakotaB (1)
I think technology continued to advance, just at a slower pace and only in the north. They still had the best hospitals and weaponry, while the south may as well have been living during the civil war of the 1860s. They still had a functional air force and was enough of a military threat that other world powers didn't challenge them directly. Instead they chose to undermine them by supporting the south. I guess just telling the story from Sarat's point of view never gives us a chance to see the technology of the time since she never went north until the end. But it was definitely a very interesting read. It really delved into the extremist mindset and perspective.
AshleySmith (11)
I thought about that after I posted this; I definitely think you're right!