America has been sorted. There are "winner-take-all" places and "left-behind" places—and the two are increasingly isolated, struggling to comprehend the divide.
This is the story that unfolds in Alec MacGillis' Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America. Ostensibly about Amazon, the book is instead an economic history of the country, shaped by an intimate introduction to people living and working in Amazon's shadow as their home cities and states transform around them.
That shadow of Amazon forms slowly. MacGillis, a reporter for ProPublica, devotes much of his writing to intricate portraits: a forklift driver and a salvaged-brick seller from Baltimore, a lawyer-turned-artist and a gospel-choir leader from Seattle, a young politician and a truck driver from Ohio. These personal stories are sweeping and in-depth, and not all connect directly to Amazon. But most bring to light some facet of the company or socioeconomic forces shaping the communities affected by it.
The narrative traces how hypergrowth and prosperity clustered in a few places—Seattle, Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C.—in parallel to the regression and often overwrought pursuit of revival by cities that corporate rainmakers bypassed. MacGillis lingers on several historic retrospectives about the decline of companies that once thrived in "left-behind" places: Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore, Md.; National Cash Register in Dayton, Ohio; Bon-Ton in York, Pa.; auto plants and other manufacturing across the states.