Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal

Farrar. Jun. 2021. 240p. ISBN 9780374603663. $27. SOC SCI
The latest by National Book Award winner Packer (The Unwinding) is not the embedded journalism readers have come to expect from him. Instead, he offers an incisive extended essay exploring the current period in U.S. history: at the end of the Trump presidency, in the midst of a global pandemic, and grappling with a racial justice reckoning of a scale not seen since the 1960s. With help from the works of Alexis de Tocqueville, and a critical eye, Packer lays bare large-scale issues plaguing American society and pulls no punches. In his view, there are “Four Americas” pulling the country in different directions: “Free America,” “Smart America,” “Real America,” and “Just America.” Packer’s persuasive thesis is that these four groups represent fissures within American society that stand in the way of a better country. The latter part of the book uses historical narratives, like those of slavery abolitionist Horace Greeley and Great Depression labor secretary Frances Perkins, to illustrate that the United States has been in dark places before and survived.
VERDICT Packer extends an evaluative eye towards every corner of the United States and offers a path for recovery and renewal. A thought-provoking work recommended for history, sociology, and politics readers everywhere.
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