Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Good American

by Alex George, February 2012, Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam

  ...the story much like real life contains both joy and sorrow but overall it is an immigrant story exploring what is means to be “a good American” - highly recommended      

Spoilers Alex George has given us one more take on the immigrant story so integral to the fabric of the US.  Frederick and Jette leave Bremen Germany in 1903 to escape disapproving parents who won’t bless their marriage.  They start with the idea of going to New York but end up going to New Orleans (“What’s the difference?  They’re both new”).  The story is narrated by their grandson James.  Frederick and Jette Meisenheimer end up in Beatrice Missouri, greatly aided by many Americans along their journey.  Jette delivers their first son Joseph in Beatrice and the Meisenheimers set down roots.  Frederick starts work at a local tavern where he becomes a popular fixture as the barkeep.  Frederick is deeply grateful for the opportunities given him and his young family which now includes a daughter Rosa.  When WWI expands to include the US, Frederick enlists and is sent to France.  In an enduring family tragedy he is killed on the last day of the war.  Jette, enraged at him for enlisting but grief stricken at his death must rally and provide for the young family.  Frederick has left her the tavern which he had been able to purchase.  She manages the tavern and then with the arrival of prohibition converts the tavern to a restaurant.  She raises Joseph and Rosa.  The story continues through the twentieth century as James marries and has four sons.   The entire family stays in Beatrice although the grandchildren all desire to leave the small town. 
The story is populated with unique, memorable characters, both good and bad.  The town of Beatrice is also a major part of this story.  The changes that occur in small town America throughout the century are seen in the changes in Beatrice.  The story much like real life contains both joy and sorrow but overall it is an immigrant story exploring what is means to be “a good American”.  I enjoyed this book it is well written with vibrant characters and a first class plot with an unexpected twist at the end.  Definitely worth your time. 
I read a copy of this book borrowed from The Free Library of Philadelphia.


Zibilee said...

I am so glad that you liked this one! I have it, and am wanting to read it really badly. From what you've said about it, I can tell that I am going to love it. Great review!

Cherry said...

I came from Cym Lowell's Book Review Party Wednesday (BRPW)

Not my genre but you've convinced me of this book... will have to check with my library next time I'm there if I can borrow a copy :)

Thanks for sharing your views!

Cherry Mischievous

I am a bit late in this blog rounds but still within the spirit of BRPW :)