Title: America Was Hard to Find
Author: Kathleen Alcott
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I received a copy of this book in a First Reads contest giveaway—my thanks to Goodreads and Ecco Publishers!
I won this book as a prize in a First Reads giveaway, and I’ve been winning so many books recently that I’m trying to coordinate them by the month so as to line them up close to their actual publication dates. America Was Hard to Find was the first book in that stack that I could find that was published in May, so I decided to read it before I went back to my library stack. I just finished this book this morning, and I don’t know how I feel about it, honestly. Sad, thought-provoking, strange and visceral, this reimagining of The Cold War era was a strange story that I will never forget. It revolves around Fay Fern, a bartender turned radical, Vincent Kahn, an astronaut that is about to take America’s first steps on the moon, and the son that results from their forbidden union, Wright. Spanning decades and generations, this book was odd, brutal, strangely tender and thought-provoking. It’s hard to get my feelings on paper, because they’re all tangled up. This book was heartbreaking, tender, sad and blatantly political.
Fay Fern is the daughter of affluent, wealthy parents, and both she and her sister, Charlie, have spurned their family’s wealth and constrained way of living. The girls’ only friend is a mean, drunk horse named Lloyd. Faye spends her days bartending and reading books. But the monotony of her life is broken by the arrival of a married astronaut, Vincent Kahn. They two begin a secret, forbidden affair, and nine months later, Fay’s son, Wright, is born. This book documents how Fay and Vincent attract one another, and Wright’s coming of age in the wake of his mother becoming a radical domestic terrorist. As I said, I’m not really sure how this book made me feel. It was vivid and well-written, but there were a lot of words that I wasn’t familiar with, and the pacing was kind of all over the place. But the characters were well-drawn and sympathetic: I liked how Fay and Charlie turned their backs on their controlling, constraining family boundaries, and I also enjoyed Wright as he grew up with his strange, radicalized mother. I liked the ending, and the other characters, but I really didn’t like Vincent. He just seemed thin and emotionless, and the book was bittersweet. Searing, eye-opening, and more than a little strange, America Was Hard to Find was a good book, even though it wasn’t normally one I would pick up. The bottom line: Political, bittersweet, tender and strange, I really enjoyed America Was Hard to Find. Next on deck: Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd!