Publisher: Penguin Audio (March 2012)
Amy Einhorn Books, Putnam (February 2012)
Audio Source: Publisher
Book Source: Publisher via BlogHer
Formats Available: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Format Read: audio book, and Paperback
Narrated by: Gibson Frazier
Running Time: 11 hours 27 minutes
Synopsis from Goodreads: An uplifting novel about the families we create and the places we call home.
It is 1904. When Frederick and Jette must flee her disapproving mother, where better to go than America, the land of the new? Originally set to board a boat to New York, at the last minute, they take one destined for New Orleans instead (“What’s the difference? They’re both new“), and later find themselves, more by chance than by design, in the small town of Beatrice, Missouri. Not speaking a word of English, they embark on their new life together.
Beatrice is populated with unforgettable characters: a jazz trumpeter from the Big Easy who cooks a mean gumbo, a teenage boy trapped in the body of a giant, a pretty schoolteacher who helps the young men in town learn about a lot more than just music, a minister who believes he has witnessed the Second Coming of Christ, and a malevolent, bicycle-riding dwarf.
A Good American is narrated by Frederick and Jette’s grandson, James, who, in telling his ancestors’ story, comes to realize he doesn’t know his own story at all. From bare-knuckle prizefighting and Prohibition to sweet barbershop harmonies, the Kennedy assassination, and beyond, James’s family is caught up in the sweep of history. Each new generation discovers afresh what it means to be an American. And, in the process, Frederick and Jette’s progeny sometimes discover more about themselves than they had bargained for.
Poignant, funny, and heartbreaking, A Good American is a novel about being an outsider-in your country, in your hometown, and sometimes even in your own family. It is a universal story about our search for home.
My thoughts: A Good American received a tremendous amount of praise when it was initially released. With my love of Historical Fiction, I knew I wanted to read it as well. What I didn’t realize is that it is an epic novel spanning more than 100 years and three generations of the Meisenheimer family.
I absolutely adored the first half of this novel. Frederick and Jette have an amazing story. Their romance and subsequent immigration to America was probably like that of many other couples starting out to build a future together. They reminded me a bit of people who I know and love. Frederick had a passion for everything he did while Jette was a bit more reserved. The ability to identify with them made them that much more interesting to me.
I loved the fact that their story was so real. George didn’t feel the need to glamorize the story to make it more interesting. If anything it probably could have been even more real and still been just as enthralling.
I found the second half of the novel in which we spend more time with the Frederick and Jette’s children to be a bit lackluster. I think it is because we don’t get to know them as well as we did their parents. With 432 pages in the paperback edition and approximately 11 ½ hours in audio, there is a lot going on. You have to really pay attention to keep up.
My experience of both reading A Good American and listening to it may have enhanced the experience. I found Gibson Frazier’s narration helpful in differentiating between characters. His narration and voices remained with me while I was reading the print copy.
All in all, I’m glad that I read A Good American. As an epic novel, it doesn’t fall into my favorite kind of read but it was still well worth the time. The writing was quite good and I look forward to seeing what Alex George does next.
I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.
© 2013, Teresa. All rights reserved.