Nothing about this book was easy or simple. For starters, it added what seemed like 5 pounds to my already full carry-on on the way back from Norway. But I picked it up in the airport because I needed something to keep me going through 3 flights totaling 12 hours.
And I finished it before I got on the 3rd flight. This was captivating in a way that few books are at 200 pages much less 750 pages. Oh, it was horrible and devastating and a condemnation of a number of things – a broken social insurance system, predatory churches, and lack of ethics in journalism to start. But it held me fast and true until the ending trailed off into a sort of bizarre “everyone lives miserably ever after” ending.
A Book of American Martyrs is a realistic fiction book set across a period of about 50 years following the patriarchs and a middle daughter of two families that end up intertwined by, of all things, the murder of one by the other over ideals.
A roofer described as a predatory rapist bully as a child is consumed with the idea that the Lord is working through him to kill an abortion provider.
An abortion provider is consumed with the need to further his work and mission, leaving his kids and wife behind to fear for their lives due to the threats.
And that act consumes both families going forward. The mothers collapse, the oldest brothers leave, the youngest vanish into the mist leaving the middle daughters fighting for their future.
If you like reading about character studies, uncomfortable ideals, and broken families this book is for you. If you’re uncomfortable with reading visceral details of abuse and ideology, this book is not for you.
I wasn’t as surprised at the rationale presented by both families surrounding abortion. The part I found most relevant and skin-crawling was the support and encouragement given to the murderer through the church and definitively related hate organizations. It’s so familiar to the politics today where everything is dog whistles and coded, not-so-coded language and support up until you’re in trouble at which point we support you but we weren’t involved. The doublespeak that’s become so encoded regarding racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and literally everything at this point where we’re definitely not saying you should hurt people, we would never say something like that. We will just say that someone needs to do it and this is how. *Wink*
That’s the part I can’t get over. That’s the part that leaves me skin crawling – somehow it wasn’t the adultery, the violent bullying, the rape. It was the insidious hate and creeping violence being preached from a pulpit and revered as the word of God.
This isn’t a coherent review. The book was well-done. I agree with other reviewers that the end falls apart but so did the families.
Everything fell apart.
Hate tore apart two families – two idealistic men, both of whom thought they were saving the world.