Kafka was not a professional writer, just a gifted office worker who wrote stories. When he died he asked his closest friend, Max Brod, to destroy them. Brod chose not to do so. The few novels were as unfinished as this one but it was one of his favorites emphasizing a distinctive flair for story telling
This one features the experiences of sixteen-year-old Karl Rossmann whose parents ship him off to America after an older servant woman seduces him and becomes pregnant. He knows no English nor is familiar with America's customs and way of life. Neither was Kafka. En route Karl becomes acqainted with a stoker dissatisfied with work on the ship. Naive Karl supports the stoker's complaints to the captain. Interestingly, Karl's uncle, Senator Jacob, is talking with the captain and recognizes him extracts him from this thankless situation.
Those Karl encounters are sometimes leary of immigrants but others take him in tow, help him learn English and get jobs. However, inexperience with life and people leads to entanglements that propel the young man into different places and situations. It's amazing that Karl gets himself embroiled so often in chaotic circumstances that change his life but Kafka understood what Karl might encounter and built a darn good tale.
Unfortunately, Kafka never finished this book. Had he finished it, I could have given it 5 stars.