How timely was AMERICA WAS HARD TO FIND? It was published on May 14, 2019 and the 50TH anniversary of the Apollo 11 Mission was July 20, 1969. One of the main characters is a fictitious NASA astronaut who took the first step on the moon. The other was an anti-vietnam war protester.
AMERICA WAS HARD TO FIND does an incredible job of capturing a nation’s unrest during a period of political uncertainty (during the Vietnam War, which coincided with the Space Race). There are plenty of interesting parallels that can be drawn between today’s America, with its air of uncertainty, its young people who feel lost and adrift and rebellious. And, yes, the novel has a young, defiant character whose life is connected to the astronaut’s. The third main character is her son, caught in the fray of his mother’s actions.
Even if you don’t consider yourself highly politically charged, this is worth a read. Because, at its heart, it is a book about people and relationships and the decisions we make as humans.
With a dense, rich style of literary writing that delivers the reader right into the hearts and minds of the characters, you will feel a part of their worlds. This is character-driven literary fiction at its best.
I like books that make me think. And this incredibly intelligent book did just that. This is a novel about outsiders finding their place in the world, in their country. And in large part, I felt the story begged a larger question: where do we draw the line between personality quirks and mental health disorders?
A few samples of the delicious language in this book, metaphors and rich sensory descriptions abound:
This was the real misfortune of the people on earth, he thought: they had made their lives somewhere they had never really seen.
Gasping and coughing is a barbed pleasure, the idea his body might get rid of anything. Wouldn’t it be good to eliminate an organ, any of them, survive on less, be made of less.
Her way with people, drawing them out, was like those magician’s scarves, silky and effortless and a little bit evil.
As he turned to go she caught him leaving, and she threw him a look as though he were a chore too long postponed, some filth that had spread and changed.
His temperature had ranged about wildly, near shiver to near fever. In his rearview Wright ran a comb through his hair, an act so unfamiliar to him that he thought he looked like a cartoon doing it, a dog trying to pass as human. He walked the parking lot of the strip mall with the sort of panic that is quick and bright, all silvery angles of movement.
I will never understand why AMERICA WAS HARD TO FIND by Kathleen Alcott did not get the publicity and marketing support it deserved. I will go back and read this author’s first and second books – her writing is that spectacular! If you enjoy literary historical fiction, open-ended finishes, deeply drawn and flawed characters, this book will send you over the moon.