In This Review

Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury
Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury
By Evan Osnos
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021, 480 pp.

Osnos returned from a decade living abroad to find a drastically altered United States, whose core values—the rule of law, truth, the right and the ability to pursue a better life—appeared to be under siege. His research into what has changed and why, told principally through the stories of individuals, stretched over seven years. The resulting book captures the widening inequalities of wealth and opportunity and the hardening of class lines that Donald Trump exploited. Others have recognized these same trends, but no one has told the story with more immediacy and impact. Osnos has an eye for the telling statistic and can make questions of policy come vividly alive. Osnos visits Clarksburg, West Virginia, and Chicago to paint the lives of the country’s poor. But his portrait of the transformation of “the Golden Triangle” of Greenwich, Connecticut, where he grew up, is the book’s high point. The town’s most influential residents were once wealthy, moderate Republicans, of the likes of the Bush family patriarch Prescott Bush, who were imbued with a strong sense of civic duty and a belief in government. Osnos finds Greenwich now inhabited by flamboyant hedge fund billionaires and private equity financiers building ever-larger mansions. These blinkered folks are libertarians who oppose taxes and regulations of any kind; they fervently believe that all they have achieved is their own doing, and they see little role for government in their lives or their communities.