Review: The Plot Against America

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The Plot Against America
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Disappointing. The premise gripped me before I ever picked it up. An alternate history where a romantic American Hero (Charles A. Lindbergh) who few Americans today remember as an anti-Semite, defeats Roosevelt to become president in 1940, only to ally the country with Nazi Germany and begin a subtle, sinister anti-Jew agenda. Sounds eye-popping, but sadly the book fails to deliver this V for Vendetta style dystopian vision. I understood the parallel “Homestead 42” and “Office of American Absorption” to their German counterparts. But I did not understand Roth’s plot decisions. Lindbergh himself speaks maybe ten sentences in the entire book. Alvin’s central role contributes nothing. And the family dynamics, while interesting, don’t scratch the surface of what could have been done if the author’s intention was to put the reader as a fly on the wall to this Nazi-fication of America.

I enjoyed the gradual build of the premise in the first chapter and the finale chapter, “Perpetual Fear” was everything I expected the whole book to be. But (SPOILER ALERT) killing Lindbergh in a plane crash just before the denouement, returning Roosevelt to office like the whole buildup was just a bad dream? C’mon. Perhaps the book was meant as a warning and a reminder to modern Americans how the anti-Semitic micro aggressions of years past put us culturally closer to that reviled group than we would like to imagine. But such a 400-page fingerwagging was not the book I signed on for. So much potential, particularly from a Pulitzer recipient flirting with a Nobel.

I have not given up on Philip Roth, but I hope Nemesis, American Pastoral, Sabbath’s Theater, and so many more he’s lauded for prove him out.

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Victor A. Davis has always loved reading and writing short stories. He is an avid hiker and even when away from the world of laptops and wifi, keeps a pocket paperback and a handwritten journal to keep him company on trail. He is the author of two short story collections, Grains of Sand and The Gingerbread Collection. Join his Mailing List for special announcements about upcoming works.