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.
Alex George's A Good American has gotten wonderful reviews from BookBrowse readers; 20 out of 23 people rate if 4 or 5 stars! Here's what they have to say:
A Good American is one of the best generational stories I have ever read. The author - Alex George - is an immigrant, and he obviously has fallen in love with America. His understanding of the challenges and opportunities experienced by our ancestors upon entry into the United States is evident. This novel presents the reader with a wide range of emotional highs and lows, joys and tragedies, and examples of good behavior and dastardly acts (Steve B). George's novel grabbed and held my attention from the very beginning. I felt that the characters were well drawn, the family story lines were consistent and well developed, and everything was entirely believable (Mary D). (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
At times the novel feels like a fictionalized historical catalogue, but there are lovely moments of humor and pathos that show real promise.
George spins this captivating family tale in a clear, straightforward, unsentimental style.
George... evokes small-town life lovingly, sometimes disturbingly, and examines the ties of family, the complications of home, and the moments of love and happiness that arrive no matter what.
Sara Gruen, New York Times-bestselling author of Water for Elephants and Ape House
This lush, epic tale of one family's journey from immigrant to Good Americans had me alternately laughing and crying, but always riveted. It's a rich, rare treat of a book, and Alex George is a first-rate talent.
Eleanor Brown, New York Times-bestselling author of The Weird Sisters
As epic as an opera, as intimate as a lullaby, A Good American swept me through an entire century of triumph and tragedy with the wonderful Meisenheimer family. By turns laugh-out-loud funny and achingly sad, the story of the residents of Beatrice, Missouri, and all their glorious, messy secrets and dreams is a winner from the first page. Alex George has created that rare and beautiful thing - a novel I finished and immediately wanted to start again.
Beth Hoffman, New York Times-bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
Richly drawn, tragic, yet laced with humor - A Good American is a remarkable, multigenerational story of a German immigrant family struggling to find roots as dreams collide with honor and secrets lead to heartache.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Becky H A wonderful book A lovely book that explores 4 generations of a family. Carefully drawn characters and a love of music permeate this novel that begins in Germany in 1904 and ends in Missouri in 2009.
Rated of 5
by Dorothy T. Terrific story There is not a dull moment in this book. The storyline about multiple generations of a German/American family is engrossing, and there are plenty of humorous situations. Alex George has plenty to say and he says it well. I could just hear that... Read More
Rated of 5
by Daveann D. (Eureka, MO) Enjoyed! I really enjoyed this book. I liked the twists and interesting characters. Being from Mo I especially liked it, would recommend!
Rated of 5
by Nikki 5 Heartfelt Stars!! Please don't miss this one! It is a perfect novel. I hated for it to end. It is literary, lyrical, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny, too! Do yourself a favor and pick this one up today.
Rated of 5
by Ruth The Good American I read this in one sitting and enjoyed the voices of the characters and the story of the family as if it was my own.
Rated of 5
by val A Good American I received this book at a preview in October, read it in days. Usually one book grabs me at these previews and this book was it. Beautifully written, this saga takes you on a journey of one families life over decades. I was in love with this book.... Read More
It might surprise you to learn that in the latest census, 51 million Americans self-identified as having German ancestry (estimates suggest that about 1/3 of these are of German ancestry alone, the rest are of partial German ancestry). That's a whopping 17% of the population, more than any other heritage group - over 13 million more than claim Irish heritage and almost double those who claim English heritage.
Because Germany as a country did not exist until 1871, many of the ancestors of today's German Americans would not have emigrated from Germany itself but from other parts of Europe that were dominated by German speakers during the height of the Holy Roman Empire (which had its center in the Kingdom of Germany, just one of the many kingdoms that were unified to form modern day Germany). So perhaps the easiest way to think of this group is that their ancestors arrived, not necessarily from Germany, but speaking German.
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