Wednesday, February 6, 2019

American Pop

American Pop by Snowden Wright
HarperCollins: 2/5/19
review copy; 400 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062697745

American Pop by Snowden Wright is a highly recommended generational Southern family saga involving a cola dynasty.

The Forster family was the founder of the world’s first major soft-drink company, the Panola Cola Company, and this is the story of their rise and fall across a century. Houghton Forster is the founder who developed a delicious fizzy drink with a secret ingredient that helped create a cola dynasty in Mississippi and propelled him and his family to the upper reaches of society as the demand for PanCola swept across the country. Houghton and his wife, Annabelle, have four children, Montgomery, Harold, and twins Ramsey and Lance.

The chapters do not follow a chronological timeline, but jump from different periods in time. Two things are important to notice and use while reading: dates at the opening of chapters will set you in the right time period and the family tree at the beginning of the book will assist in identifying the characters until you know them more intimately. While all the characters may seem overwhelming at the beginning, if you stay with the novel the narrative will all start to make sense and fall into a timeline. It is rather essential to take it slow at first and learn who the characters are and where they fit into the family and the saga. Once you have a grip on who fits where and when, the narrative will move faster.

Along the way the novel Wright utilizes the technique of adding real and imagined historical quotes and mythical reports, blending fact and fiction which adds a depth to the narrative and makes the novel feel more like a biographical piece on a real family soda dynasty. I liked this touch quite a bit. As you were learning some of the private inside information about the lives of the family, there is the added dimension of the historical public view of the Foresters. The result is an intricate family saga with a complex mythology.

The quality of the writing is very good. The text is brimming with wit, irony, anecdotal digressions, and recognizably Southern sayings. At the same time there are also heartbreaking, tragic moments contrasting with incidences of great passion. Ultimately the characters are well-developed. At the end, you can almost believe that this Southern Gothic novel is a real biography of the first cola dynasty.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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