Title: A Good American
Author: Alex George
Published: 2012 Pages: 411
In Short: Spanning three generations, A Good American is the tale of one family’s quest to make their adoptive country their own.
Why I read it: I received this book as part of BlogHer Book Club. It’s my first time participating and this one is a great choice for any book club.
Thoughts in General: So you all know that I don’t read book descriptions before reading a book, right? This kills Lisa. Kills her. I took from the cover of this book and the title that it would be set in the olden days and would involve letter writing and would probably be narrated by a woman. This is where the buzzer goes
Ehhhhhhhh. Things I wish I had known about this book going in: it spans 100ish years, it is narrated by a male, and there are no letters–at least not any that are read. I’m not going to give Lisa the satisfaction of saying “I told you so,” but I wish I had some sort of inkling what to expect with this one as my reading would have been a bit different.
I tell you all of this because it supports one of the pitfalls I experienced when I was reading A Good American–the book is propelled by major plot developments from start to finish but because the book does span three generations and 100ish years we don’t get to spend enough time with any one aspect of the book. I was left wanting more depth of emotion in some of the scenes and more development of character motive and perspective. There are a couple of really heartwrenching scenes in the book–parts that made me want to cry while reading at lunch and put it in the freezer to keep from more hurt–but they came and went quickly. Good news is there are some great potential spin-off stories in this book.
All that said, I enjoyed A Good American and found myself moving quickly through the story and eager to know what would happen next. This was especially true of the beginning of the book when Frederick and Jette traveled to Missouri from Germany and created a brand new life for them. I was reminded of my own ancestors who immigrated from Europe in the 1800s and 1900s. It’s hard to imagine the heartache that must have been experienced while leaving a life behind and the courage it required to start from anew.
The real winner of this book, however, is the writing. The writing is incredibly rich and descriptive.
“Joseph used to tell me that being a short-order cook is like dancing with ten girls at once, but he always made that complex choreography look effortless” (216).
“The sun’s reflection caught the crests of the gently rippling water. The dazzling quilt of light appeared quite still, as if time up there were frozen” (253).
“Now, after her solitary waltz across almost half a century, they were reunited at last. Their lovers’ duet, sweet and beautiful, would ring out again” (353).
Bottom Line: While there was a bit of a lag after the middle of the book and not quite as much depth as I typically prefer, A Good American kept my interest enough to spend any free time reading it–oftentimes with the mentality of “just one more chapter” (bonus–short chapters). I would recommend this book to those who enjoy a good long family saga where every subject under the sun is covered.
Do you have any favorite books about immigrants? Any stories of your own to tell? One of these days I will travel to southern Utah where my grandma’s grandparents pioneered in the frontier.
Disclaimer: This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are entirely my own. To read more discussion about A Good American, visit the BlogHer Book Club page.