HomeBooksA Review of Snowden Wright’s ‘American Pop’

A Review of Snowden Wright’s ‘American Pop’

An expatriate is someone disappointed by the American dream because she tries too hard to buy into it.” – Part 1 of American Pop

A tragedy, in many ways, chronicling the swift rise and fall of the Forsters, founders of the Panola Cola Company, American Pop deftly weaves through time and place, all the while remaining tethered to Mississippi and its roots. Snowden Wright’s novel beautifully captures the notion of family and belonging through this exploration of one family’s ties with each other.

American Pop opens at the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940, introducing the Forsters at a New Year’s Eve Party at The Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Monty Forster, the golden child of Houghton Forster, the family patriarch, contemplates his life as, elsewhere, the rest of the family does the same. Monty, who in addition to being the heir of the Panola Cola Company, harbors aspirations of running for presidential office, displays the façade of a happily married man, while still thinking of Nicholas, a fellow soldier he knew in France. At the same time, in a different part of the hotel, Monty’s younger sister Ramsey is served divorce papers, and Ramsey’s twin Lance wonders about his relationship with his sister, while Harold, the second son, thinks about his family as the Forster matriarch, Annabelle, chastises him for his behavior as she searches for Monty.

The story of the family’s rise to power—just as fast as their downfall—is interestingly narrated with anecdotes of each character revealed as they are necessary to furthering the plot of the novel. Beginnings and endings are what drive each separate storyline, with Ph.D. student Robert Vaughn finding out he is the grandson of Harold Forster years after the Forsters have long been forgotten. The non-linear timeline allows for a deeper understanding of what exactly is important to the family and their focus on reputation and image. The performance they put on for the rest of the world is fascinating to watch as it unfolds—from Ramsey’s time in Paris and Monty’s perfect family man façade to Lance’s struggle to find his place in the family and Harold’s preservation of family history.

The Forster children—both Monty and his siblings and Imogene and her cousins— and their struggles to find their place in the world beyond simply their family legacy is what makes American Pop a profound exploration of identity. Wright explores the story of the Forsters through incidents and anecdotes all crucial to understanding who they are at the end of 1939, and through the past, present and future creates an acute sense of loss and desire to somehow prevent an inevitable future, as the Forsters’ lives unravel leading up to the fall of the Panola Cola Company.

American Pop is one of our book picks for the New Year.

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