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A Good American
A Good American
Author: Alex George
Everything he’d seen had been unimaginably different from the dry, dour streets of home, and to his surprise he was not sorry in the slightest. He was smitten by the beguiling otherness of it all. — And so began my grandfather’s rapturous love affair with America -- an affair that would continue until the day he died. — This i...  more »
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ISBN-13: 9780425253175
ISBN-10: 0425253171
Publication Date: 2/5/2013
Pages: 432
Rating:
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 19

3.7 stars, based on 19 ratings
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover, Audio CD
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

knitter avatar reviewed A Good American on + 64 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I almost gave this book 5 stars. The writing is just wonderful, not for it's beauty but for the perfect word or phrasing just where it belongs. An effortless read with quirky but very believable people and no real plot (it's a fictional family's history) but plenty of twists and turns and a totally unexpected surprise ending. It lost 1/2 a star for changing in the middle from one story to another which left me rather perplexed. However, it did come together in the end. Read it. You can't help but enjoy it.
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c-squared avatar reviewed A Good American on + 181 more book reviews
The story had a promising beginning: two outsized young Germans meet in a public garden at the turn of the 20th century. He wins her heart by singing opera songs in foreign languages. When she becomes pregnant, they escape her disapproving mother on a boat bound for New Orleans, settling in a small Missouri town with a predominantly German population.

But this story isn't just about the emigrant couple, Frederick and Jette. It's also about their two children, four grandsons, countless great-grandchildren, and a multitude of townsfolk and strangers that pass through their lives. The narrator of the story is one of those four grandsons, James. The events that occur before his birth, he describes in too much detail for his limited perspective. There's no way that his relatives would (or could) have told him that much. Some of the events within his lifetime are beyond his realm of knowledge, so we can only assume that he's supposed to be making them up. I think it would have been more effective to either use a third-person omniscient p.o.v. or to let various characters tell their own stories.

The themes and plot became too diluted and convoluted along the way. In the beginning, music is a strong theme in the novel, a source of inspiration and unifying force. Although the narrator claims that music is important in his life, that really isn't shown. Instead, literature and chess become just as important. Within James' lifetime, too many characters dance in and out of the story, introduced just to die, it seems. With many of the main (actually important) characters, it felt like the author was trying to figure out what to do with them. The results were mostly interesting, but not always plausible. Also, the foreshadowing one-liners sprinkled through the novel got on my nerves after a while.

What really killed my enjoyment was the twist ending, which came from out of nowhere and didn't really make sense, even when I went back and reread earlier sections.


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