Unwinding (Packer) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
This book hums—with sorrow, with outrage and with compassion for those who are caught in the gears of America's increasingly complicated (and increasingly poorly calibrated) financial machinery.… The Unwinding contains many sweeping, wide-angle views of American life. Its portraits of Youngstown, Ohio; Tampa; Silicon Valley; Washington; and Wall Street are rich, complex and interlocking. Mr. Packer's gifts are Steinbeckian in the best sense of that term…he's written something close to a nonfiction masterpiece.
Dwight Garner - New York Times


Packer's is a big book, using close portraiture to make huge conclusions about who we've become and what we've lost…Packer's dark rendering of the state of the nation feels pained but true. He offers no false hopes, no Hollywood endings, but he finds power in another strain of American creativity, in the stories of Raymond Carver and the paintings of Edward Hopper, in the dignity and heart of a people who grow deeply lonely as their lives break down, but who somehow retain muscle memory of how to climb back up.
Marc Fisher - Washington Post


[M]any of the qualities of an epic novel...[a] professional work of journalism that also happens to be more intimate and textured—and certainly more ambitious—than most contemporary works of U.S. fiction dare to be.... What distinguishes The Unwinding is the fullness of Packer’s portraits, his willingness to show his subjects’ human desires and foibles, and to give each of his subjects a fully throated voice.
Hector Tobar - Los Angeles Times


Wide ranging, deeply reported, historically grounded and ideologically restrained.... Instead of compelling us to engage with his theory of the past 35 years of the American experience, Packer invites us to explore the experience itself, as lived by our fellow citizens. They’re human beings, not evidence for an agenda or fodder for talking points. Understanding that is the first step toward reclaiming the nation we share with them.
New York Review of Books


(Starred review.) Sometime in the late 1970s, the foundations of the American Century began to unravel. In this trenchant account, New Yorker writer Packer charts the erosion of the social compact that kept the country stable and middle class. Readers experience three decades of change via the personal histories.... Packer has a keen eye for the big story in the small moment, writing about our fraying social fabric with talent that matches his dismay.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) Trenchant... [the] brief biographies of seminal figures that shaped the current state of affairs offer the book’s fiercest prose, such as in Packer’s brutal takedown of Robert Rubin, secretary of the Treasury during some key 1990s financial deregulation that amplified the severity of the Great Recession of 2008. Packer has a keen eye for the big story in the small moment, writing about our fraying social fabric with talent that matches his dismay.
Booklist


Packer describes the decline of America from a very specific time: If you were born half a century ago, around 1960, then, he writes, "you watched structures that had been in place before your birth collapse like pillars of salt across the vast visible landscape."... Exemplary journalism that defines a sobering, even depressing matter. A foundational document in the literature of the end of America--the end, that is, for the moment.
Kirkus Reviews




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