Published by William Morrow on February 5, 2019
Genres: General (Adult) Fiction
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Synopsis
The story of a family. The story of an empire. The story of a nation.
Moving from Mississippi to Paris to New York and back again, a saga of family, ambition, passion, and tragedy that brings to life one unforgettable Southern dynasty—the Forsters, founders of the world’s first major soft-drink company—against the backdrop of more than a century of American cultural history.
The child of immigrants, Houghton Forster has always wanted more—from his time as a young boy in Mississippi, working twelve-hour days at his father’s drugstore; to the moment he first laid eyes on his future wife, Annabelle Teague, a true Southern belle of aristocratic lineage; to his invention of the delicious fizzy drink that would transform him from tiller boy into the founder of an empire, the Panola Cola Company, and entice a youthful, enterprising nation entering a hopeful new age.
Now the heads of a preeminent American family spoken about in the same breath as the Hearsts and the Rockefellers, Houghton and Annabelle raise their four children with the expectation they’ll one day become world leaders. The burden of greatness falls early on eldest son Montgomery, a handsome and successful politician who has never recovered from the horrors and heartbreak of the Great War. His younger siblings Ramsey and Lance, known as the “infernal twins,” are rivals not only in wit and beauty, but in their utter carelessness with the lives and hearts of others. Their brother Harold, as gentle and caring as the twins can be cruel, is slowed by a mental disability—and later generations seem equally plagued by misfortune, forcing Houghton to seriously consider who should control the company after he’s gone.
An irresistible tour de force of original storytelling, American Pop blends fact and fiction, the mundane and the mythical, and utilizes techniques of historical reportage to capture how, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s words, “families are always rising and falling in America,” and to explore the many ways in which nostalgia can manipulate cultural memory—and the stories we choose to tell about ourselves.
I received this book for free from LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Buy on Amazon, Buy on Book Depository
Since American Pop started out with my least favorite part of the book, I’m going to start with what I liked least about reading it. (Only fair, right?)
What I Least Enjoyed about American Pop
The book immediately jumps into the lives of the ENTIRE Forster family during a New Year’s Eve party in 1939. The Forster’s have yet to fully embrace the downhill slide of the vast Panola Cola dynasty. Because of where the story begins, you’ve got a LOT of characters coming at you fast! I was only able to keep up with who’s who by using the handy-dandy family tree at the beginning of the book. Without it, I’d have never been able to make it through the first chapter.
There’s a lot of hopping around from one family member to another and also from one time period to another… So if you’re distracted, you’re going to get lost! If you’re not paying attention, you’re going to miss something! I got really confused on multiple occasions and was super close to DNFing it all together.
What I Most Enjoyed about American Pop
I gave it four stars, so American Pop has to have something going for it, right…
Pretty much everything after the confusing beginning was pure joy to read! I generally read multiple books at the same time, switching among them throughout the day, but I couldn’t even force myself to pick up another book until I finished this one!
Funny, sweet, sad, ironic, uplifting & depressing are all words that could be used to describe American Pop. As my kids would say… it has ALL the feels.
The Forster family is pretty much the definition of dysfunctional:
The Forsters, like most southern families, typically had one of two intentions when conversing among themselves: to make each other laugh or to make each other bleed.
They all have secrets they unsuccessfully hide from both the world and each other. (Okay, maybe sometimes successfully? Semi-successfully, is that a thing?) There isn’t a well-adjusted person in the bunch!
After a while, I actually got used to the way that the story goes from one snippet in the family’s history to another, switching between family members and time periods.
Every emotion you can imagine, I felt it while reading this book. Love, hate, fear, excitement, sadness, grief, joy…it was a roller coaster of tears and laughing to the point of more tears!
One of my favorite story lines… You find out at the very start that one of the Pancola heirs, Houghton Forster, is in a strained marriage. Then you read the story of how he met his wife and it’s so sweet and cute. They’re so happy and you cannot figure out what in the world happened to change it all. I wept, cheered for, and admonished Houghton throughout the book.
The characters are all amazing, but one of my
While I ended up loving American Pop, it’s not going to be for everyone. I think it’s definitely worth the read, despite the confusing beginning, but I’d caution anyone with triggers of violence or rape not to read it.