The God of War

A Novel

The God of War

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 to 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.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416563303 | 
  • April 2008
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Marisa Silver. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion of The God of War. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


The God of War is the latest novel from Marisa Silver, author of No Direction Home, and the story collection, Babe in Paradise. Silver’s fluid writing and vibrant descriptions merge to tell the moving story of two brothers; a story of loyalty, love, survival, and guilt, and how each of these things bind us. Twelve year-old Ares feels responsible for his mentally handicapped younger brother, Malcolm. Left to his own devices by their single mother, he attempts taking his first steps toward adulthood but finds himself irrevocably tethered to his family. Something in his past, a searing guilt that won’t let relent, keeps Ares forever looking out for his brother. The story, set in 1978 at the edge of the Salton Sea near California’s Mojave Desert, encompasses the beauty and harshness of its rugged setting as it races to its inevitable conclusion.    


Questions for discussion:

1. This story takes see more

More Books from this Author

Following her acclaimed, Los Angeles Times Book Prize–nominated novel, The God of War, Marisa Silver’s extraordinary book, Alone With You, is a starkly elegant and superbly rendered collection of short stories.

Marisa Silver dazzled and inspired readers with her critically acclaimed The God of War (a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist), praised by Richard Russo as “a novel of great metaphorical depth and beauty.” In this elegant, finely wrought new...

About the Author

Marisa Silver
Bader Howar

Marisa Silver

Marisa Silver is the author of the novel Little Nothing, published in September 2016. Her other novels include Mary Coin, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Southern California Independent Bookseller’s Award. The God of War, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, and No Direction Home. Her first collection of short stories, Babe in Paradise was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. When her second collection, Alone With You was published, The New York Times called her “one of California’s most celebrated contemporary writers.” Her fiction has been included in The Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Prize Stories, as well as other anthologies. She lives in Los Angeles. For more, visit