MLA Gold Award Site

Excerpt from The Good American by Ursula Maria Mandel, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Good American

A Novel Based On True Events

by Ursula Maria Mandel

The Good American
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback:
    Feb 2001, 249 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

This book is dedicated, among others, to the Good American, wherever he is now. One can't write such a book, however, without also dedicating it to all the women who, after some insanity--whenever and wherever--manage, somehow, and unflinchingly, to pick up the pieces and to go on.

Chapter 1
Politics: A Fragment

On a summer day in 1948, Ruth Karstens, a young widow, and Pauli, her five-year-old niece, made their way gingerly down a densely forested mountain somewhere in eastern Germany. Both were hot, muddy, and exhausted. Pauli, holding on to Ruth's hand, lagged behind more and more, and so it looked as if Ruth were dragging the child down the mountain. A fresh breeze that had stayed behind after a thunderstorm parted the leaves of the trees now and then and gave Ruth a view over the vast, green pastures and barren fields toward where she was headed: a round village at the far horizon out of which stuck a church steeple. In the haze of that humid summer day, the hamlet looked more like a mirage than an actual village, but the image was enough to inspire Ruth to keep going.

In the same dense and silent forest, near the foot of the same mountain, a Russian soldier sat on the ground. He guarded a wide, muddy strip of land, a kind of road that hugged the foot of the mountain. His task was to make sure that no one would cross it. The strip was about fifty yards wide and had been thoroughly cleared of trees and underbrush and, particularly, of the network of brambles of the wild blackberries that used to grow there. The children of the village used to come in the summer to collect the berries in tins and baskets, and their mothers used to make the most delicious jams out of them. But the children did not come that summer. In fact, no one went near the mountain for fear they would be shot.

That day in 1948, the raped tract of land, now looking sad and desolate, didn't have the least scent of the brutal notoriety that would define it for the next fifty years when it would be called ‘The Iron Curtain.' By dividing the world into East and West, it would have more power than any other piece of real estate ever. That afternoon, it looked innocent enough. Not far from the soldier, in the part that was called ‘The West' and that was occupied by the American Armed Forces, a young farmer tilled a field with an ox. Ruth could see him as she came down the mountain. She had the distinct sense that, once she crossed what appeared to her a muddy creek and made it to that farmer, she would be home free.

The soldier, a gun in his lap, fished a cigarette out of a crumpled pack and struck a match. But before the match could make its way to the tip of the cigarette, a twig snapped brightly in the silence of the forest. The soldier froze, holding the lit match between his fingers. All his senses strained as the small sound of leaves crushed by soft steps came haltingly closer from somewhere above him. Without making the least sound, he blew out the match, lifted his gun, and rolled behind a tree. Ruth and the child walked directly and unsuspectingly toward him….

From Chapter 6

"Let's have coffee over there," she said, getting up, pointing to the cozy couch corner with the colorful pillows. I helped her clear the table, taking things to the kitchen while she put everything away there.

"Go," she said. "Sit down. I'll bring the rest," and I settled, obediently, in the armchair and watched as she brought cups and saucers and sugar and cream and, finally, the coffee, which she poured, and a plate of cookies.

"Store-bought," she smirked before I could even ask whether she had actually gone through the trouble of baking cookies. Ceremoniously, she lit a fat yellow candle on the table and, finally, sat down the couch and curled her legs under.

"Don't you want to take off your shoes and put your feet up here on this ottoman?" she asked. "You'd be so much more comfortable."

Copyright Ursula Mandel 2001. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this excerpt please contact http://www.ursulamandel.com

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Victoria
by Daisy Goodwin

"A hit…The research is impeccable, the attention to detail, perfect." - The Sunday Mirror (UK)

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
    by Kathleen Rooney

    "Effervescent with verve, wit, and heart" - Booklist, starred review

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win No Man's Land

No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien

Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.

Enter

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Ruler of the Night
    Ruler of the Night
    by David Morrell
    Amateur sleuth Thomas De Quincey is back in a mystery set in Victorian England. This time, he and ...
  • Book Jacket: A List of Cages
    A List of Cages
    by Robin Roe
    Robin Roe has written one helluva young adult debut novel. Alternating first person narratives by a ...
  • Book Jacket: Homesick for Another World
    Homesick for Another World
    by Ottessa Moshfegh
    The frizzy, freaky, funky, and frazzled all pile on in this much anticipated short story collection ...

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H W S W T Devil S H A L S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.