2 A.M. in Little America
An Esquire “Best Book of Spring 2022”
A Publishers Weekly “Best Book of Summer 2022”
A Kirkus “Best Book of May 2022”
A San Francisco Chronicle “Most Anticipated Novel of 2022”
A Literary Hub “Most Anticipated Book of 2022”
From “an important writer in every sense” (David Foster Wallace), a novel that imagines a future in which sweeping civil conflict has forced America’s young people to flee its borders, into an unwelcoming world.
One such American is Ron Patterson, who finds himself on distant shores, working as a repairman and sharing a room with other refugees. In an unnamed city wedged between ocean and lush mountainous forest, Ron can almost imagine a stable life for himself. Especially when he makes the first friend he has had in years—a mysterious migrant named Marlise, who bears a striking resemblance to a onetime classmate.
Nearly a decade later—after anti-migrant sentiment has put their whirlwind intimacy and asylum to an end—Ron is living in “Little America,” an enclave of migrants in one of the few countries still willing to accept them. Here, among reminders of his past life, he again begins to feel that he may have found a home. Ron adopts a stray dog, observes his neighbors, and lands a repairman job that allows him to move through the city quietly. But this newfound security, too, is quickly jeopardized, as resurgent political divisions threaten the fabric of Little America. Tapped as an informant against the rise of militant gangs and contending with the appearance of a strangely familiar woman, Ron is suddenly on dangerous and uncertain ground.
Brimming with mystery, suspense, and Kalfus’s distinctive comic irony, 2 A.M. in Little America poses several questions vital to the current moment: What happens when privilege is reversed? Who is watching and why? How do tribalized politics disrupt our ability to distinguish what is true and what is not? This is a story for our time—gripping, unsettling, prescient—by one of our most acclaimed novelists.
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Praise and Prizes
“Deeply intriguing . . . A tense and often beautiful work of reflection on the American present . . . 2 A.M. in Little America is a highly readable, taut novel. It pulls the reader into its world, and suggests that many interesting human complications await us at the end of the story called the United States of America.”
“Kalfus has a gift for penetrating to the core of current events and presenting issues in a provocative way . . . [2 A.M. in Little America is] a quietly dystopian novel that presents an unsettling portrait of a humbled America as seen through the eyes of a migrant who is a not entirely reliable narrator.”
“Kalfus is one of contemporary literature’s best-kept secrets. He’s a writer’s writer through and through, but with 2 A.M. in Little America, he’s poised to make a major crossover to the mainstream . . . Kalfus explores powerful questions about tribalization, alienation, and exile.”
“From the undersung Kalfus, another tonally intricate triumph, this one about the bewilderment, alienation, and sheer strangeness of being a refugee . . . A strange, highly compelling tale about what happens when American privilege and insulation get turned inside out.”
“Ken Kalfus is American literature’s best-kept secret: his ideas are weird, his writing is limber, his ironic eye is gimlet, and yet no one seems to talk about him. Maybe that will change with [2 A.M. in Little America] . . . I’ve been waiting for a new novel from him since 2013’s insane, high-concept Equilateral, and I can’t wait to dig in.”
“Kalfus returns with a subtly provocative dystopian story . . . Part of the thrill of Kalfus’s engrossing story is in how he pieces together the details of his near-future world . . . [2 A.M. in Little America] takes hold on the reader.”
“As it progresses, [this] tale becomes a potent warning about the consequences of ideological fervor. Heartbreaking and sobering, the dystopian novel 2 A.M. in Little America has the makings of a modern classic.”
"2 A.M. in Little America is my favorite book by one of America's great living writers. It is uncanny, insightful, thrilling, beautiful, and always overflowing with pleasures."
“In its melding of migration narrative, romance, and political thriller, Ken Kalfus’s wondrous tale of a dystopian future, 2 A.M. in Little America, transforms home into a story we tell ourselves and others, one as subject to the failures of our memories as to the deceptions of our imaginations. Its tale of the collision between those narratives and real life innovates and turns pages, sings and whispers of its, and thereby our, Little Americas.”
“2 A.M. in Little America is the novel I didn’t know I needed to read about my worst fears about the end of this country. This imaginative and immersive allegory of human intractability, memory, displacement, and the sinister potential of big-box stores is riotously funny and just as melancholy, unmistakably the vision of Ken Kalfus, a veteran chronicler of the doomed madness that is nationalism.”
“A work of art [that] looks further ahead, responding to our present moment by imagining a possible future.”
“In Ken Kalfus’s 2 A.M. in Little America, a near-future United States has metastasized into a bloody second civil war where everyone has been forced to choose a side . . . [Kalfus brings] a new perspective on the plight of refugees to an American audience . . . the social commentary in this novel is particularly sharp.”
“2 A.M. in Little America poses the seemingly impossible question of what anyone might do in such a situation, which is only impossible until it happens. Nobody expects to become a refugee. Through [protagonist] Patterson, we glance some of the emotions and pressures that might come with these conditions. We’re left wondering—with a tangible sense of urgency—whether or not we are ever control of our own destiny.”
"In the latest from the National Book Award finalist, America is no longer safe, and its citizens must flee to unnamed cities and countries that don’t want them. But when these new pockets of safety begin to collapse for the American migrants, where do they turn next?”
"A dystopian novel with a timely premise . . . To put down the book, to re-immerse in the onrushing news stream of our raucous times, is sometimes to feel the world of 2 A.M. in Little America encroaching on real life. A coup attempt, a jaw-slackening probe of the event with intimations another could be on the way, mass shootings—what fresh horror will pop up on our screens? Is it time to get out?"
“2 A.M. in Little America belongs among the year’s biggest hits. … it’s also a humbling glimpse of the circumstances millions of refugees are actually facing — a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God experience that shouldn’t be necessary to evoke empathy but certainly maximizes it.”