In honor of Independence Day (which I spent in a small mountain town in Arizona yesterday) I am presenting to you four of my favorite American novels. This is a diverse collection because, as I have written about in the past, I really don’t read a lot of books written by Americans so the ones I have read are a bit of a weird mix. I read three of these (all except The Age of Innocence) for reading challenges and would never have done so if not for it. So, hurrah for challenges! And now here are four of the best American classics I’ve read:
1. A Death in the Family by James Agee – This posthumously published novel is a beautifully lyrical story of the evolution of the Follett family after Jay Follett, the young husband of the family, dies in an automobile accident. Set in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1915 the novel painfully portrays the confusion and grief of a sudden death and flashbacks to happier times in the family’s history. If you like gorgeous writing and stories about families, this one is for you.
2. The Searchers by Alan LeMay – I have only read a handful of Westerns in my lifetime and this was one of them. It happens to be a powerful and fascinating story of two strong men and their search for a little girl who has been captured by the Comanche in Texas in the 1860′s. This novel has a very dark theme with revenge and bigotry central to the story. You may have seen the film based on this novel starring John Wayne – put all thoughts of the weak film out of your head and read this wonderful story instead. It is nothing like the film and is so much more rewarding.
3. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton – This brilliant story of New York society in the Gilded Age is quite possibly one of my favorite novels of all-time. You can read my thoughts on it here.
4. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday - Abel is a young Native American who’s just returned from WWII to his small village in New Mexico. Tradition remains strong in Abel’s village, but he has seen the modern, industrial world and feels compelled to join it. His father, Francisco, however, expects him to return to the culture of his people. The conflict is nearly too much for Abel to bear and we watch as he descends into despair and confusion. Momaday’s poetical novel is a sad treatise that is saturated with beautiful descriptions of the Southwestern landscape. His prose can be impenetrable, but if you stick with it you will discover a beautiful book that will touch your heart.
What are your favorite American classics?