Skip to main content

Book 12 of 52: A Good American by Alex George

What do you say about the book of someone who's come to Thanksgiving dinner? Well good things, since Alex George's A Good Americanis a good read (and I'm glad I can say that because otherwise, this would be an awkward blog post).

George is the friend of a friend who came to a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by me and my now ex-boyfriend two years ago. A Good American was about to be published, and George was already earning excellent advance reviews. I was going to buy a copy, though he said don't do that as he wanted to thank us for our hospitality by sending a signed copy of the book.

That never happened (for which he has apologized PROFUSELY! and I've made the same oops as an author, too). I was in Tampa last week and stopped at Inkwood Books before heading to St. Pete Beach and there, filed as a staff recommendation, was A Good American.

After DNFing two books while on vacation already, I was relieved to find a good fit with this one, which is about three generations of the Meisenheimer family, starting with Frederick and Jette, who leave Germany because her mother won't let them marry. They establish a new life in Beatrice, Missouri, Frederick bartending and Jette making house (and unhappily so). The book's narrator is James, their grandson, and he tells the story up until he's an old man.

It's a family tale, and how different generations try to be good Americans, however that shifts and changes as the distance between them and Germany widens with time and two wars against their home country. It's an engaging book, and I'm not surprised it's garnered so much praise and wound up a staff pick at Inkwood (George was also chosen as a Barnes & Noble Discover Pick).

George himself is English, and his mother came to England from New Zealand. He moved to the U.S. because his then-wife is from here, and he's stayed. He writes in the author's note that this idea of being from one place and finding a home in another is on his mind, and it shows in A Good American, even if the countries involved are not part of his background.

I do have one quibble. George tends to use Dickensian-cliff hangers at the ends of sections, even within chapters (Dickins' stories were published in installments, so it beehove him to end each installment with a cliff hanger so readers would buy the magazine next week).

Two examples from A Good American:

"Which was an interesting remark, given what happened next."

"As it happened, at that very moment, Fate was slowly making its way toward Tillman's Wood, wheezing up the steep hill behind our house."

One or two is okay, but the more they're used, the less effective they become.

But that's a minor problem in an otherwise enjoyable read. Bravo, Alex. Since I never got a signed copy, you can buy me a beer next time you're in town.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Welcome Back to Book a Week with Jen!

Hello hello! Yes, the rumors (that I started) are true. On New Year's Day, I fired up the old Book a Week with Jen blog, gave it a new domain, and I'm going to be writing about my reading habits once again. If you don't know me, my name is Jen A. Miller , and I'm a freelance writer and author. I've been freelancing now for 17 years, and in that time, have written hundreds of articles, three books ( two about the Jersey Shore and one about running ), and two ebooks ( both about freelance writing ). If you're not new around here, wow a lot has changed. I wrote a memoir , picked up a regular running column for the New York Times , and put that back down again. I ran a lot of marathons, and got into ultra marathoning, which lead me to run my first 24 hour race on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day 2020/2021 . My first dog, Emily, died in 2017 . I sold my first home, lived out of my car for a year traveling the country , scooped up a scruffy cattle dog mix in Ida

Book 5 of 52: Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen

I don't always try to match my reading to what I'm doing, but when I go to Florida, I try to pack at least one Florida weird book. There was no better novel to bring with me to read on a ferry from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park , than Carl Hiaasen's Stormy Weather . Hiaasen was writing about #floridaman before #floridaman was a thing (and when this - # - was the pound sign).  Stormy Weather is set in 1992 in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, which is still the most destructive hurricane to have ever hit Florida, and only one of four hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. still at Category 5 strength. According to the Miami Herald , Hurricane Andrew destroyed 63,000 homes and damaged another 101,241. Such disasters bring out the best in humanity but also the worst. F raud flowed into South Florida in Andrew's wake . That's where  Stormy Weather comes in. From an advertising executive who yanks his new wife away from their Walt Disney World honeymoon to r

Book 11 of 52: The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

In my travels, I've accumulated photos in what I call the "Plants Where They Shouldn't Be" series. They're of weeds, flowers and trees growing in places that look uncomfortable: poking out of lava that's OK to walk on but warm enough to generate steam, growing around a mile marker on the road, sprouting on the back of a parking sign - that kind of thing. On the cheesy side, they're reminders that we can flourish in the most unlikely circumstances. On a more realistic end, they show that humans are constantly battling back nature, and that someday we'll probably lose the fight. I thought about those photos when I read  book 8 of 52 Station Eleven  (and watched  the HBO Max adaptation ), which show a world without 99.99 percent of our current human population. The story focuses on people, of course, but set them in a world where the things humans have created - electricity, internet, buildings, bridges, roads - are being taken back by nature. A Jersey Sh