A Good American by Alex George is a novel about family, love, talents, grief and a family finding its way in a new country. The book begins in Germany in 1904, when a young couple in love find themselves pregnant, unmarried and wanting to start a life together. They run away to America and are married at sea. Then their story winds from New Orleans up to Missouri where the young bride, Jette gives birth. Although they were headed farther north, they decide to settle into the small town where they have found others who speak their native tongue and some budding friendships.
The story weaves through, telling Frederick and Jette’s story then their children’s and then further generations … but it’s not until the end that all the pieces of the family history fall into place.
This is a novel filled with familiar themes — love, family, hope, dreams, friendships and loss. It spans more than 100 years of this family’s life, showing how alike — and different — family members can be. And how little missteps can have big (but not necessarily bad) consequences.
Important in the story is a bar that Frederick begins working at early in the novel. He eventually purchases it (hello, American dream) and it’s passed down through the generations — becoming an eatery in the time of prohibition.
This book had so much depth. It paints a very vivid and honest picture of family and friends. There are hurts, traumas, excitements and secrets. It explored the intersection of love and hurt masterfully. And seeing the family develop through generations paints a really poignant picture of how history shapes our future.
Still, there were parts of this book where I wanted to walk away. It’s gritty and messy. And at times, some things that happen are just cruel. If you are seeking a good fortune tale with happy endings and bits of serendipity, this isn’t it. Also, A Good American is deceptively long. It took me a full 10 days to read it — even though I am normally a speedy reader who zips through books.
I didn’t love this book, but I didn’t hate it either. It has merit as a work of literature — but it’s not a feel good book, per se. I guess what I am saying is that it’s a little heavier than I like my reading.
Please join us over at the BlogHer Book Club where we’ll be chatting about A Good American by Alex George all month.
Disclosure: This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to a tween and a teen, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.