Robert W. Bancroft

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By Bo Bancroft

IR Rating:
Political satire at its finest, Bo Bancroft’s MAKE AMERICA BEAUTIFUL AGAIN is a bold debut that delivers a sweeping indictment of American politics that everyone can laugh at.
IR Approved

A clever political satire that pairs subtle commentary with a compelling drama.

American politics has long fueled satire. While the parties in question have certainly changed over time, the key ingredients—stupidity and humor—have essentially remained the same. Bo Bancroft’s MAKE AMERICA BEAUTIFUL AGAIN offers a healthy mix of both, parlaying one of recent history’s more divisive slogans into a rich and clever tapestry of political hilarity.

The story opens with Seamus O’Reilly investigating a series of bombings along the Georgia interstate. The unprecedented act of domestic terrorism results in the destruction of a hundred billboards, some of which were owned by the VOA, a Veteran-centric Ad company. The case leads O’Reilly to the Worthingtons, the powerful family at the head of the VOA. The investigation is dealt a curve when two separate groups claim responsibility for the attack, including an organization called Make America Beautiful Again. Further complicating matters are the competing interests from the powers that be, including a Governor bent on reelection and a hapless president infatuated with social media. Oh, and don’t forget about the coven of white supremacists. The further O’Reilly’s investigation takes him into the VOA’s closet, the more skeletons he finds. It begs the question, just how many ways can blame be divided before it belongs to everyone?

At first glance, the cast of MAKE AMERICA BEAUTIFUL AGAIN might seem like a grab bag of caricatures based on real-life politicians. But other than a Twitter-loving president, Bancroft’s characters are surprisingly developed. In fact, the same could be said for nearly every aspect of this novel. Yes, this is a satire through and through, but Bancroft largely avoids cheap laughs. Instead, the author peddles a more subtle brand of humor that incites reflection and rewards patience. Obviously, the American political landscape is the target here, but Bancroft wisely avoids taking sides. And leading the proverbial charge is O’Reilly. Good Natured to a fault, Bancroft’s protagonist has an unyielding allegiance to the idea of America, a concept that he spends the whole novel attempting to articulate. There’s an obvious commentary floating between the lines, but Bancroft’s deadpan delivery encourages a universal embrace. Readers will likely assume he’s talking about ‘the other side,’ when in truth, Bancroft’s only allegiance appears to be to the state of Georgia itself (as evidenced by his reverent descriptions).

As for the story, Bancroft skillfully walks the fine line between complex and convoluted and ultimately delivers a surprisingly coherent plot. The large ensemble cast and their numerous subplots eventually coincide in spectacular fashion. Sure, an argument could be made that the novel runs a little too long for its own good, but MAKE AMERICA BEAUTIFUL AGAIN remains an entertaining read throughout. And given the quality of Bancroft’s writing, a slightly bloated page count is easily overlooked if not justified.

Political satire at its finest, Bo Bancroft’s MAKE AMERICA BEAUTIFUL AGAIN is a bold debut that delivers a sweeping indictment of American politics that everyone can laugh at.

~James Weiskittel for IndieReader

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