American Spirits (Hardcover)

American Spirits By Russell Banks Cover Image
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From one of America’s most celebrated storytellers come three dark, interlocking tales about the residents of a rural New York town, and the shocking headlines that become their local mythologies.

A husband sells property to a mysterious, temperamental stranger, and is hounded on social media when he publicly questions the man’s character. A couple grows concerned when an enigmatic family moves next door, and the children start sneaking over to beg for help. Two dangerous criminals kidnap an elderly couple and begin blackmailing their grandson, demanding that he pay back what he owes.

Suspenseful, thrilling, and expertly crafted, American Spirits explores the hostile undercurrents of our communities and American politics at large, as well as the ways local tragedies can be both devastating and, somehow, everyday. Ushering the reader through the town of Sam Dent, Russell Banks has etched yet another brilliant entry into the bedrock of American fiction.

About the Author

RUSSELL BANKS, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, was one of America’s most prestigious fiction writers, a past president of the International Parliament of Writers, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and received numerous prizes and awards. He died in 2023.

Praise For…

“What a beautiful farewell gift the great Russell Banks has left us in American Spirits. Better than anything I’ve read, this book gave me hope about our current political situation—it gave me a way to think of it that isn’t all despair. These three utterly compelling stories are so truthful about America as to be almost unbearable. They’re funny, frank, full of love and each of them delivers an epic punch, in its own flavor—they feel Shakespearean in their daring—in how fearlessly they exploit the dramatic space they’ve mapped out. (Several times while reading I found myself thinking: ‘My God, he’s going there.’) 

“American Spirits has a beautiful, elegiac sense; we feel the passing of time and the fading away of things, possibly even of the American experiment. But they’re also about rebirth; what looks like decline is only decline when seen through the limited lens of one human life. Banks’ view, in this, his last book, is vast, deeply in touch with the long arc of history. He accomplishes all of this in the classic way, by looking with interest and affection and acceptance at individuals, whom the writer has summoned out of the air and come to love. 
“I learned so much about storytelling and about our country reading these stories, and I finished the book full of gratitude that such a man, and a writer, as Russell Banks could have existed. We’ll miss him and, I expect, won’t see his like again.”
—George Saunders, author of Liberation Day

“Violence woven with politics and human foible was [Banks’s] hallmark . . . Banks artfully captures the precariousness of existence before existence turns tragic, the way feelings of masculinity get tangled up in that precarity, and how macho posturing only makes it worse . . . In Banks’s parcel of America, residents try to escape the past, but the past always has a way of getting back at us.”
—Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times

“Compelling narratives from this fine writer . . . All these stories include ruminations on the passage of time, changes and damage in the landscape, and the values and aspirations sustained from generation to generation. The tone in these passages is almost elegiac: hymns to a past when fewer wounds were self-inflicted.”
Kirkus, starred

“Banks’s stories are about fragile, everyday people whom, despite their resilience and strength, life still manages to break. An imaginatively constructed [book of linked tales] from a late master storyteller.”
Library Journal, starred review

“Elegant . . . As ever, the reader senses the confidence in Banks’s narrative voice. This is a welcome addition to the legacy of a master storyteller.”
Publishers Weekly

“The late Banks was our chief chronicler of the working class, the patron saint of the blue collar . . . Each tale [in American Spirits] bears the unmistakable imprint of a true literary giant, who will be dearly missed.”

“Russell Banks has always been a master at elevating the small calamities of everyday American life into full-blown tragedy, revealing all the dark ways our grief and despair can spill into something larger, more menacing, than we ever imagined. With American Spirits, Banks takes us to upstate New York with three connected stories of small-town life gone very wrong.”
—Lit Hub, “Most Anticipated Books of 2024”

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593536773
ISBN-10: 0593536770
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: March 5th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English