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America, America, By Ethan Canin

Ethan Canin, who first made his name as a short-story writer, has turned his hand to a big, fat state-of-the-union novel. The narrator, Corey Sifter, is a 50-year-old Michigan newspaperman, who in his youth was co-opted by a powerful local family into Democratic politics.

This epic narrative moves from Sifter's blue-collar childhood through to his involvement with presidential hopeful, Sen. Henry Bonwiller, whose campaign is undone in a Chappaquiddick-style moment. The subject matter is classical US fare, but Canin passes this literary test with flying colours.