A Good American, by Alex George.
Everything he’d seen had been unimaginably different from the dry, dour streets of home, and to his surprise he was not sorry in the slightest. He was smitten by the beguiling otherness of it all.
And so began my grandfather’s rapturous love affair with America—an affair that would continue until the day he died.
BlogHer Book Club, and to be honest it didn't sound that interesting at first. However, I like books that span generations, and so I decided to give it a try. It ended up greatly exceeding my expectations, and I am very glad I read it; it's a fantastic book that anyone can enjoy.
This is the story of the Meisenheimer family, told by James, a third-generation American living in Beatrice, Missouri. It’s where his German grandparents—Frederick and Jette—found themselves after journeying across the turbulent Atlantic, fording the flood-swollen Mississippi, and being brought to a sudden halt by the broken water of the pregnant Jette.
A Good American tells of Jette’s dogged determination to feed a town sauerkraut and soul food; the loves and losses of her children, Joseph and Rosa; and the precocious voices of James and his brothers, sometimes raised in discord…sometimes in perfect harmony.
But above all, A Good American is about the music in Frederick’s heart, a song that began as an aria, was jazzed by ragtime, and became an anthem of love for his adopted country that the family still hears to this day.
The book is "told" from the point of James Meisenheimer, who is Joseph's son - the son of Jette and Frederick. It starts off at the very beginning of Frederick and Jette's relationship, when he sings to her in a park and captures her heart. Jette becomes pregnant and her mother hates Frederick, so they move to America; originally they wanted to settle in St. Louis, but they stay in Beatrice, Missouri instead, because Jette gives birth to Joseph there. The story continues through the birth of Joseph's sister, Anna; when Joseph marries and has four children; and throughout James's lifetime.
The book is about family and about how everyone's choices affect everyone, for the most part; a twist later on in the story, involving family, is rather shocking, but also interesting, and affects how we have perceived one of the character's lives and the entire book in general.
Although the novel may take a while to get through, it reads almost like a biography: one almost expects the author's name on the cover to say James Meisenheimer rather than Alex George. The family and all of its descendants' lives are laid out in exquisite detail, and some of their fates end up being rather surprising. I would recommend this novel for anyone who likes a good story, and there was some humor sprinkled throughout as well that made me laugh.
4.5 stars out of 5.
*Disclosure: I was compensated for writing this review for the BlogHer Book Club. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.