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ARC Review: The Divorce Colony

The Divorce Colony: How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American Frontier by April White April White’s The Divorce Colony is set during the Gilded Age, in the America of the late 1800s. It revolves around the lax divorce rules then to be found in South Dakota.  Today, getting divorced is almost easier than getting married. But in the Gilded Age, divorces were not so easy to obtain. Divorce was viewed as a moral concern for the state, and was denounced from the pulpit for threatening the sanctity of marriage. Even President Theodore Roosevelt spoke out against it.  Laws around divorce tended to be most lax on the frontiers of the United States. By the 1880s the territory of Dakota gained the dubious honor of posting the largest rise in divorces in the country. At the turn of the century one city - Sioux Falls, South Dakota - gained a reputation for having the laxest divorce laws of all, and required only a three month residency in order to take advantage of them

ARC Review: Wildland: The Making of America's Fury


Evan Osnos' Wildland is a fascinating and illuminating look at the political fury of Americans in the first decades of the 21st century. This book builds slowly but powerfully as Osnos reviews the different strands of American life - the deepening divide of economic inequality, unequal access to medical care, racial injustice, drugs and gun violence - that have torn at ordinary Americans over the last 20 years and built up into the fury of the Trump years.

Osnos, a reporter for the New Yorker, returned to America in 2013 after spending a number of years on assignment abroad. Once back in Washington DC, he began to explore the lives of everyday Americans in three different cities he had connections to -  Greenwich, Connecticut; Chicago, Illinois; and Clarksburg, West Virginia. The stories of these Americans form the basis for this book.

In the book Osnos follows a hedge fund manager, a small town newspaper editor, a community activist, and many others. Out of these stories a theme emerges of justice and fairness not only unfound, but systematically denied. In each story the impacts of American capitalism and politics are not uplifting, but rather cold, unfeeling and disheartening. 

Another animating theme of these stories is that disconnection among Americans has become acute. We no longer identify with our local communities or are even aware of issues important to our neighborhood, town or city. As local newspapers have faded away and we've turned to the internet for information, many of us are more knowledgeable and animated by events happening nationally. 

This book ties strands together from 9/11 through the housing crash of 2008 right up to today. The overall picture it paints is not pretty. Osnos seems to feel that America after Trump understands that many of the issues Trump highlighted in his first campaign were real and in need of addressing, even if Trump himself had no answers and failed to address them. Osnos points to signs of local activism and political involvement (particularly in the case of grassroots organizing in West Virginia) as hope that Americans will find a way to right our course. 

There is not a grand conclusion to this book, and I think that's appropriate. While Osnos did a great job illuminating how we got to the current point, where we go from here is yet to be decided, and so better to let events play out.

For anyone interested in understanding the American political realities of today I recommend Wildland. I rate this book Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐.

NOTE: I received this book through Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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