One American Dream by Bernard Beck is yet another book (on its way to becoming a bestseller) about the [futile] pursuit of living the American dream. This time the protagonists are neither African-Americans nor Latin Americans, but second and third generations of Jews coming from Poland and struggling to find success and happiness.
Jacob Rubinowitz, in particular, seems to be obsessed with becoming a real American. He was only a child when his mother took him to the States and, as soon as the law allowed him to, he changed his name and became John Rubin. Still, each time he got a bit closer to finally becoming a true American, he felt he lacked authenticity: "Throughout my life I have invented, reinvented, burnished, refurbished, constructed, and reconstructed myself as often as necessary in order to achieve my ultimate goal: to be a real American". Thus this became John's obsession and it marked his entire existence and even his relationships with his close family, his wife, Rose, and his daughter, Ruthie. Only in the end of the novel did he realize what it meant to be a real American:
"I discovered that being an American isn't about what you wear, or how you speak, or where you live. Anyone can do that. It's what's in your head and in your heart that makes you an American. We Americans argue about everything, but in the end we always do the right thing. [...] In Europe, and in the rest of the world, there is history and privilege. But in America, everything was new and equal right [ha!] from the start."Overall, this is a book to be read only for its story, which, unfortunately, is not an original one. And what bothers me the most about it is the style. It is so poorly written! There are multiple voices in the novel, each chapter being told from the perspective of a different character, but in fact there is no real difference between the perspectives. Hence, what the readers perceive is not the story being told from multiple perspectives, but one narrator struggling to create the impression of multiplicity. There even are at some point a few lines that instead of deepening this sense of multiplicity, they portray the author's clumsiness in terms of narrative technique: "(You might notice that this is somewhat different from the way my husband remembers it. Men always seem to picture themselves as more macho than they actually are.)"
To sum up, this book is an unsuccessful struggle to portray the American dream and it reminded me of another struggle, a little more mundane and actual: Make America great again! or, better yet, make America Great Britain again!
* I received an advanced reading e-book copy from the publisher via NetGalley.