In his extremely right-wing radio show, Pryor Wright—whose only purpose is fame and fortune, regardless of the harm he causes—inadvertently encourages conservatives to express their anger at the liberals through violence, landing Maren Garrity’s twin brother in the hospital. Maren, a member of an acting troupe, believes Pryor Wright is solely responsible for this crime, and she wants revenge. Using her acting skills, she poses as a law school student and acquires an internship on “Wright for America,” Wright’s radio show, hoping to dig up some dirt on the man who repulses her so. Though she must falsify her identity and declare opposing political beliefs to those she actually holds, Maren feels no shame, keeping the image of her brother bedridden in the hospital seared in her mind.
Meanwhile, Maren has taken on another criminal acting role as a counterfeit purse merchant. The police begin spying on her when they discover a weapons dealing ring, controlled by those who Maren believes are supplying her with the counterfeit goods. Soon her identity as Katherine Star, conservative intern to Pryor Wright, is sought after in the police investigation, and her fellow thespians’ doubt grows as the risks pile up.
Though Maren is obviously the protagonist of Wright for America, her relentless seeking of revenge and compromising of her morals make her mirror her enemy, Wright, increasingly as the story progresses. Even at the conclusion of novel, when Maren exacts her revenge by framing Wright for attempted murder, the reader may be left feeling as though Maren herself deserves a punishment somehow, as well as pitying Pryor Wright. Lamont’s intention in this novel was to reveal the power of words and the dangers of ambition, and she certainly accomplishes this; however, Maren often remarks, “It’s not right,” when warned that Wright has “the First Amendment in his corner,” and she asks angrily, “What gives him the right to sit there behind his microphone, up on his throne, hurling slurs and making false accusations?” During this particular rant to her friends, Maren is riled up, practically raging, which conveys her as a hypocrite in the sense that she is allowing Wright’s words, which influence radical conservatives to commit acts of violence, to influence her into seeking a violent end to Wright’s career.
Maren is more of an antihero than a protagonist, but unfortunately her own hamartia is not addressed, leaving the reader perhaps a bit frustrated with her—and American society—at the conclusion of the story. Though immensely frustrating, this characteristic is the notable defining trait of its genre: political satire. It’s a sly sort of satire, mocking ultra-liberals for inadvertently reflecting their opposition’s methods of expressing their anger. While Pryor Wright blames Mexicans, homosexuals, and, of course, liberals, for everything wrong in the country, Maren blames Wright for the problems with American society; one can often forget that this book is a satire, getting caught up in Maren’s hypocrisy.
The reader’s growing irritation switches to loathing when fellow actor Mas admits to her he has always had a crush on him, she turns him down and almost immediately accepts the offer for a date from the policeman who accidentally fell in love with her while following her during the investigation. In fact, he admits to his partner that he “fell in love with Katherine Star,” Maren’s conservative alter-ego, rather than the liberal, “real” Maren. This irony accentuates Maren’s flaws, as well as the problems American politics faces today.
Perhaps because of Maren’s hypocritical flaws and lack of redemption aside, Wright for America is excellently crafted. Each seemingly insignificant detail is in fact as necessary to the overall satirical effect of the novel as the larger moving pieces are. Lamont’s prose paints a clear, strong, and accurate picture of contemporary American issues with cynical humor. Obstinate and justice-focused, the family and business dynamics presented here are distinctly American. This timely novel is sure to provoke meaningful political debate, especially concerning the right to free speech and the trustworthiness and competence of criminal justice.