Just over a decade into the new millennium, America is beset by a sense of crisis. The seismic shifts that occurred in the space of a generation have created a country of winners and losers, leaving the social contract in pieces. In The Unwinding, George Packer narrates the story of America over the past three decades, bringing to the task his empathy with people facing difficult challenges, his sharp eye for detail and a gift for weaving together engaging narratives.
The Unwinding moves deftly back and forth through the lives of half a dozen characters, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the industrial Midwest trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington careerist; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire. The narrative alternates these intimately told stories with biographical sketches of the era's leading public figures, from Oprah Winfrey to Steve Jobs, capturing the year-by-year flow of events. The Unwinding portrays a superpower coming apart at the seams, its elites and institutions no longer working, leaving ordinary people to improvise their own schemes for salvation.