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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