“At every opportunity he would bend low over the creased paper, murmuring the strange names of the towns beneath his fingers. He learned to recognize each state. He relished the chaotic topography of the eastern provinces, and saw hopeful poetry in the vast asymmetries to the west…”
(A GOOD AMERICAN, by Alex George)
A GOOD AMERICAN by Alex George was published last week and is 381 pages. I bought the book for four reasons: 1) Amy Einhorn Books published it, and I knew I couldn’t go wrong there; 2) Alex is one of my Twitter pals; 3) I’m a sucker for epic, family-driven historical fiction; 4) How could I not love a book that begins: “Always, there was music.” For all of these reasons, it is gratifying to say that I really, really loved this novel.
The book begins a century ago in Germany, where the large, opera-singing Frederick Meisenheimer falls in love with the robust, ungraceful Jette, and woos her with a song from over a garden hedge. Their enthusiastic walks and conversations lead to an enthusiastic enjoyment of one another, and the inevitable happens: Jette becomes pregnant.
Fleeing Jette’s unforgiving mother and a village where they have no future, the two embark upon a journey that takes them to New Orleans, where they marry, and then meet a black cornet player named Lomax whose kindness saves them from ruin. He sends them upriver where Jette’s labor forces them to settle in Beatrice, Missouri. The rest of the novel unfolds generation by generation, one unforgettable character at a time, over the sweeping backdrop of American history.
I can’t remember the last time I read a story that covered a century so comprehensively, but that also helped me get to know characters so well that I laughed with them, cried with them, and gasped at the choices they made or witnessed. As a history lover, I could identify with the narrator, James, looking back over photographs and old marriage licenses, trying to make sense and meaning of the past. James’ commentary made him and his flawed but colorful family very endearing.
From world wars, to Prohibition, to the assassination of President Kennedy, Alex George, gives world events emotional resonance and life through the unforgettable characters he creates. Reminiscent of FOREST GUMP for its connection to the past and for its profound emotional impact, I have no doubt that A GOOD AMERICAN will inspire readers everywhere. If you are a fan of epic family drama, you will love this novel.
A GOOD AMERICAN was recently named O Magazine’s #1 “Title to Pick up Now”, and is the #1 pick for Indie’s Next List. If you want to learn more about Alex or his magnificent book, please visit his website at alexgeorgebooks.com.