Finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize

The God of War

"You know who comes out ahead in a war?"


"The ones who believe in the story."

"What story?"

"The one they tell you to get you to fight."

The year is 1978. Ares Ramirez, age 12, lives with his mother, Laurel, and his younger brother Malcolm in a trailer at the edge of the Salton Sea, an unintentionally man-made body of water in the middle of the Southern California desert. It is a desolate, forgotten place, whose inhabitants thrive amidst seemingly impossible circumstances

Where birds fly by day across the desert sky, by night government fighter planes and helicopters make training runs using live ammunition, and an anonymous dead body floats in from the sea. These events inspire Ares, on the cusp of his adolescence, to enact elaborate fantasies of mortal combat. His membership in a troubled family marks Ares as a casualty of a different kind of war. Malcolm, age 7, is mentally handicapped, and his mother chooses not to do anything about it.

Ares' struggle with the burden of responsibility - to himself and others - draws him into a world of drugs, violence, and sex that he is not prepared for, launching him into a very personal battle for his own identity, one that has a lethal outcome.

The God of War


[Silver] lets the details of her storytelling subtly suggest its larger implications. In The God of War, seemingly insignificant moments, carefully observed, are used to scavenge value and insight from the neglected and the obscure.

The New York Times Book Review

[A] dark and nearly flawless novel

Julia Keller

Chicago Tribune

Read [The God of War] for the tender furies of adolescence, the starkly beautiful descriptions of California's inland Salton Sea, and the devious valor of love."

O: The Oprah Magazine

The God of War is a sad but captivating book, and Silver subtly achieves exactly what she sets out to do. It ends with more questions than answers, and a soft resignation toward all that is ultimately unknowable, which is, perhaps, what the loss of innocence is all about.

The Oregonian

New Yorker contributor Silver (No Direction Home) writes a dark and devastating coming-of-age story. Even though most readers will not have lived the tough life that Ares has, they are sure to relate to his search for a place in the world. Highly recommended.

Library Journal

Marisa Silver's The God of War is a novel of great metaphorical depth and beauty. It stays with you like a lesson well and truly learned.

Richard Russo

author of Empire Falls

The God of War also commits itself to a wary celebration of family love…always fierce and strong and, in its fallible way, true. 'He had a voice, a pure, true voice that sang the world back to itself.' Ares says of his brother. 'It was the best thing a voice could be called upon to do.' The same could be said of this lovely, necessary novel.

Ella Taylor

L.A. Weekly

[The God of War is] a heartbreaking story in the coming-of-age tradition, and at the end, fast-forwards in time to reveal the shards of a broken family and reaches for redemption: By describing his pain, Ares triumphs over his own metaphorical autism.

The Dallas Morning News

Marisa Silver's second novel establishes her on the cusp of literary mastery.

TimeOut New York

The characters are painted with compassion and unflinching honesty, and the climax is pithy and consequential… An elegantly observed coming-of-age story.

Publisher's Weekly

Marisa Silver is the author for whom we've all been waiting. With unabashed voice she steadily, bravely, unerringly tells a heartbreakingly beautiful story for our time. The God of War is the truest novel I've read in ages.

Alexandra Fuller

author of Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight

Marisa Silver's The God of War is as gripping as it is beautifully written. By the end I ached for these brothers, Ares and Malcolm, as if they were my own family, and I will not forget them.

Peter Orner

author of Esther Stories and The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo

[A] moving exploration of fraying family bonds deftly balanced with an elegiac parable, one whose desert backdrop lends resonance to Silver's ruminations on the mysteries of violence and loss, love and rage, guilt and blame.

James Gibbons

Los Angeles Times Book Review

Quietly powerful and remarkably moving

Timothy Peters

San Francisco Chronicle

Beautifully written, with every character rounded and real, The God of War is a sad, touching, lovely novel.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Stunning…. Finely wrought characters and an illuminating portrait of the secret world of autism makes for a powerful, often tragic tale.

Kirkus Reviews

starred review

Silver writes lyrically of family crises exacerbated by mental debilities, exquisitely evoking a land of natural beauty and human menace and mindscapes both shaded and bright in an emotionally complex and unpredictable novel that insists on an all-at-once read.


The God of War is such a stunning dive into a desert landscape few have understood and loved as deeply as Marisa Silver. It is no man's land, and every man's land - there, her people wage epic battles for their lives, for their loyalties, and for their very fierce versions of love.

Susan Straight

author of A Million Nightingales and Highwire Moon


PopMatters: The Deconstruction Zone

"The God of War…is a heart-wrenching parable for the rudderless modern world cloaked as an L.A. novel."

Reinventing the Southern California Novel: Marisa Silver's The God of War

Marisa Silver: Fiction Short and Long

Writers Voice spends the hour with fiction writer Marisa Silver, talking about the craft of writing, her new collection of short stories Alone With You and her 2008 novel, The God of War.

Los Angeles Times: A fertile moonscape for a writer's fiction

"Marisa Silver's resilient characters find reasons to believe just off the Salton Sea's barren shores."

read the article by Marc Weingarten