Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pg. 69: Marisa Silver's "The God of War"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Marisa Silver's The God of War.

About the book, from the publisher:
The year is 1978. Ares Ramirez, age 12, lives with his mother, Laurel, and his younger brother Malcolm in a trailer at the edge of the Salton Sea, an unintentionally man-made body of water in the middle of the Southern California desert. It is a desolate, forgotten place, whose inhabitants thrive amidst seemingly impossible circumstances.

Where birds fly by day across the desert sky, by night government fighter planes and helicopters make training runs using live ammunition, and an anonymous dead body floats in from the sea. These events inspire Ares, on the cusp of his adolescence, to enact elaborate fantasies of mortal combat. His membership in a troubled family marks Ares as a casualty of a different kind of war. Malcolm, age 7, is mentally handicapped, and his mother chooses not to do anything about it.

Ares' struggle with the burden of responsibility -- to himself and to others -- draws him into a world of drugs, violence, and sex that he is not prepared for, launching him into a very personal battle for his own identity, one that has a lethal outcome.
Among the early acclaim for the novel:
“Marisa Silver is the author for whom we've all been waiting. With unabashed voice she steadily, bravely, unerringly tells a heartbreakingly beautiful story for our time. The God of War is the truest novel I've read in ages.”
--Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight

The God of War is such a stunning dive into a desert landscape few have understood and loved as deeply as Marisa Silver. It is no man's land, and every man's land — there, her people wage epic battles for their lives, for their loyalties, and for their very fierce versions of love.”
--Susan Straight, author of A Million Nightingales and Highwire Moon

“Marisa Silver's The God of War is as gripping as it is beautifully written. By the end I ached for these brothers, Ares and Malcolm, as if they were my own family, and I will not forget them.”
--Peter Orner, author of Esther Stories and The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo

“An elegantly observed coming-of-age story steeped in poverty and violence, this novel by the author of No Direction Home offers a poignant and often heartbreaking account of Ares Ramirez. The year is 1978, and 12-year-old Ares has outgrown the cramped trailer in the California desert that he shares with his mother, Laurel, and six-year-old brother, Malcolm. Malcolm has profound developmental disabilities, but Laurel, out of a free-spirited and self-righteous view of motherhood, has only recently (and very reluctantly) allowed Malcolm to get treatment. A horrific childhood accident and encroaching adolescence, meanwhile, fill Ares with a potent and inarticulate anger. In the absence of any outlet for his preoccupation with violence, Ares falls into an uneasy friendship with Kevin, the troubled foster child of Malcolm's new speech therapist. Conflict with Laurel, her on-again-off-again boyfriend and a small community that will not accept Malcolm, drive Ares into Kevin's manipulative sway, and Ares will have to choose between protecting his family or embracing the violence building inside him. The characters are painted with compassion and unflinching honesty, and the climax is pithy and consequential.”
--Publishers Weekly

“A stunning second novel.... Finely wrought characters and an illuminating portrait of the secret world of autism makes for a powerful, often tragic tale.”
--Kirkus Reviews

“Marisa Silver's The God of War is a novel of great metaphorical depth and beauty. It stays with you like a lesson well and truly learned.”
--Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls
Read an excerpt from The God of War, and learn more about the author and her work at Marisa Silver's website.

Silver is the author of Babe in Paradise, a collection of stories that was a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, and the novel No Direction Home. She made her fictional debut in The New Yorker when she was featured in that magazine's inaugural “Debut Fiction” issue. Her fiction continues to be published in The New Yorker, including "The Visitor" from the December 3, 2007 issue.

The Page 69 Test: The God of War.

--Marshal Zeringue