Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021-06-15) is an essay on the meaning of the year 2020. If the gift of the virus was to interrupt us, author George Packer uses the interruption to take a close look at America, a “long middle-aged stare in the mirror.” Packer’s examination puts our particular year in Portland into a larger context. His general analysis doesn’t perfectly fit our specifics, but it is a sharp lens through which to look at ourselves, and it helped me better understand our local issues.
The book is a cross between tough-love and a bad diagnosis from the doctor. This month’s Atlantic magazine excerpts a section in which Packer describes the fracturing of America into four parts, each with its own narrative and idea of what our country should be. He calls the parts Free, Real, Smart and Just America. Treat yourself and read this piece, it looks like it is available online free of charge.