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The God of War: A Novel Paperback – April 14, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An elegantly observed coming-of-age story steeped in poverty and violence, this novel by the author of No Direction Home offers a poignant and often heartbreaking account of Ares Ramirez. The year is 1978, and 12-year-old Ares has outgrown the cramped trailer in the California desert that he shares with his mother, Laurel, and six-year-old brother, Malcolm. Malcolm has profound developmental disabilities, but Laurel, out of a free-spirited and self-righteous view of motherhood, has only recently (and very reluctantly) allowed Malcolm to get treatment. A horrific childhood accident and encroaching adolescence, meanwhile, fill Ares with a potent and inarticulate anger. In the absence of any outlet for his preoccupation with violence, Ares falls into an uneasy friendship with Kevin, the troubled foster child of Malcolm's new speech therapist. Conflict with Laurel, her on-again-off-again boyfriend and a small community that will not accept Malcolm, drive Ares into Kevin's manipulative sway, and Ares will have to choose between protecting his family or embracing the violence building inside him. The characters are painted with compassion and unflinching honesty, and the climax is pithy and consequential. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The Salton Sea seems like a mirage in the vast Southern California desert, but in 1978 it is a real, if endangered, sanctuary for pelicans, fish, and a ragtag little family. Ares, Silver’s utterly beguiling, fatherless narrator, tells the haunting story of his traumatic twelfth year. In spite of his youth, he is the man of the house, tending to Malcolm, his six-year-old half brother, who has severe learning disabilities. Ares believes he caused Malcolm’s condition, and he endures ridicule and violence as his brother’s protector in their drug-stoked outlaw town, while Laurel, a terrible mother and a mystic in denial, alienates her current lover, a Vietnam vet the boys adore. The school librarian is the only adult whom lonely and responsible Ares trusts, but her volatile foster son very nearly destroys Ares’ already precarious life. The author of No Direction Home (2005), Silver writes lyrically of family crises exacerbated by mental debilities, exquisitely evoking a land of natural beauty and human menace and mindscapes both shadowed and bright in an emotionally complex and unpredictable novel that insists on an all-at-once read. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Featured Author: Marisa Silver
Read an excerpt from Marisa Silver's bestselling novel, The God of War [PDF].

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416563172
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416563174
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marisa Silver made her fiction debut in The New Yorker when she was featured in that magazine's first "Debut Fiction" issue. Her collection of short stories, BABE IN PARADISE was published by W.W. Norton in 2001. That collection was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. In 2005, W.W. Norton published her novel, NO DIRECTION HOME. Her novel, THE GOD OF WAR, was published in 2008 by Simon and Schuster and is a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction. Her collection of stories, ALONE WITH YOU, was published by Simon and Schuster in2010. Her novel, MARY COIN, will be published by Penguin/blue rider press in 2013. .Winner of the O. Henry Prize, her fiction has been included in The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, as well as other anthologies. To find out more, please visit marisasilver.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By B. Morse on September 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Marisa Silver's 'The God of War' is an absorbing and elegant novel. A story of darkness, despair, disappointment, and doubt.

Ares Ramirez, the 12 year old protagonist and narrator of this work spends his days helping to care for his younger brother Malcolm, whom Ares dropped on his head as a baby, and lives each day with the guilt of this, as he watches his brother struggle to communicate and to live. Ares, Malcolm, and their mother Laurel all live in a trailer in the less than lively area of Bombay Beach, on the shore of a man-made lake, and closeby to government bomb testing.

When difficulties arise at school, Malcolm begins work with the school Librarian, Mrs. Poole, to try to enhance his communication and development skills. As he accompanies his younger brother to these weekly sessions in the Pooles' home, Ares feels a strong pull to Mrs. Poole, and is intrigued to meet her foster son, Kevin, who is a few years older than Ares, and much more despondant and 'empty inside'. Kevin's release from a juvenile detention facility enhances and complicates Ares' life far more than he ever anticipated.

What follows is breathtaking, tragic, heart-wrenching, and poignant, as Ares befriends a boy far more 'hollow' than himself. The conclusion of this novel, while I will not spoil it for those who have not yet read it, will touch even the hardest of hearts.

A wonderful read, and the kind of novel that makes you wish for twice or three times the number of pages, so that (no matter how dark the subject matter) the story would go on and on. Highly recommended, and I look forward to more titles from the same author.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. Hotard on May 17, 2008
Format: Audio CD
This book was so much more than I thought it would be upon choosing it. The setting of this book, Bombay Beach and Slab City on the Salton Sea in far Southern California, is one I had not heard of since my school days but in the hands of Marisa Silver becomes a character in and of itself. If you decide to read this book take a quick peek at google and hit some of the pictures of Bombay Beach & Slab City and the Salton Sea and get this place in your mind's eye. It makes the book that much richer. Ares, Malcolm and Laurel's dilapidated trailer home inhabits it's own little world and I am glad I visited.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. Callahan on January 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a well-told, engaging story about a dysfunctional family, told from the point of view of one of the children. Sounds like the same old, overdone theme. But in Marisa Silver's hands, it's new and touching and beautiful.

The story is set in a run-down trailer in a run-down area in a harsh part of our own country. In this environment, 12-year-old Ares tries to protect and take care of his mixed-up mother and his autistic brother, while trying to figure things out on his own. He is tough and can handle most things he's faced with, but he's also kind and gentle with his mother and his brother. Aries is strong and capable in spite of being almost crippled by the certain knowledge that he is the cause of his brother's severe disability because he dropped him as an infant. The mother refuses to discuss the brother's disability, and Aries is consumed by guilt, until incredulous professionals explain to him the real basis of his brother's problems.

There is a lot of action in this novel; it's not just a psychological drama. It not only paints an interesting picture of a unique part of the country, but it also gives us a young hero bearing huge burdens that are not his to bear.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Marisa Silver's new book is about love somehow surviving in the most challenging of places and in the most imperfect of people. Set in the one of the few truly unique places left in this country - the Salton Sea - Silver's story is hard to forget once you've read it. A terrific book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carla Ford VINE VOICE on July 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Marisa Silver has written a novel from the perspective of a twelve year old boy so believably that it is hard to believe that she is not a twelve year old boy. This book was so gripping and painful that I didn't want to put it down until I knew that Ares was going to be okay. Named after the Greek God of war by his free spirited, eccentric mother, Ares has lived with the pain of his younger brother's severe mental disability for more than five years. He has a level of maturity and responsibility well beyond his years, but he is still only a boy who needs love and attention. I imagine great book club discussions will come from this one, starting with Laurel, the fiercely loving and protective but overwhelmed and sometimes unable to cope mother of Ares and his brother Malcolm.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Knerrd on December 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
One of the best books I have read this year. I don't believe I've ever read a book that is so depressing yet optimistic at the same time. The optimism is not obvious, but it is there. Ares is one of the more memorable characters you will find in a novel - adult or child. In fact, he is pressed into such a difficult situation that you forget he is a child.

I actually read this book because of my interest in the Salton Sea (yet itself a fascinating thing - I highly recommend the movie 'Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea'). There could not be a better setting for this book than the Salton Sea and its mesmerizing mix of eccentricity, poverty and hope.
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