The Civil War at Home
Dustin McKissen, author
In the suburbs of middle America, two men engage in a growing feud. Their passionate disagreement, though superficially focused on politics, is fed by assumptions about class, economics, immigration, race, and the legacy of a horrific sexual crime. Ultimately the feud leads to tragedy for both families, and an unlikely bond between two women. The story of one liberal family and one conservative family is also the story of the polarization dividing the nation, and how stereotypes and anger can blind each side of a political divide to their common humanity.
A toxic bubble of tension and rage brews in McKissen’s noisy tale of disastrously mismatched neighbors (after The Poor and The Haunted). In first-person narratives, the members of two married couples in a suburb of an unnamed Midwestern city reflect on how their experiences shaped their political beliefs. After a racist joke costs Trump-supporting Rick Sullivan his job, Rick keeps his wife, Kate, a teacher, in the dark about the details of his firing, along with his suicidal depression, and Kate stands by him. Their liberal neighbor, Kevin Harrison, a marketing consultant, is married to Marina, a third-generation Mexican-American homemaker. The members of each couple remain ignorant about the others’ backgrounds (Kevin grew up poor and abused; Marina was not an illegal immigrant), and they make assumptions based on political and religious affiliations. The neighbors maintain a semblance of civility until they take to Facebook, where Rick calls Kevin an “overeducated privileged liberal” and Kevin calls Rick a “knuckle-dragging conservative Jesus-freak.” Their mutual resentment leads to an alarming, blood-soaked conclusion. While the language the neighbors employ draws on broad stereotypes, McKissen finds humor and surprising depth in their antics. McKissen’s harrowing tragedy of misunderstanding and personal turmoil makes for a powder keg of a page-turner. (Self-published)