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.
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The Good American
[The book's narrator, James Meisenheimer, discovers the delights of English humor.]
Rosa told me lots of good jokes. Even better, she taught me how to tell them. Boys tend to race through jokes, desperate to get to the punch line. My aunt taught me to slow down. She showed me how each joke was put together - where to pause, what to emphasize, how to deliver the pay-off. She made me practice the same routine over and over again, and then sent me home to perform it for my brothers.
Encouraged, I began to study the professionals. Jette had a radio in her living room, and we would listen to the first superstars of comedy while we leaned over the chessboard: Abbott and Costello, Amos n' Andy, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Edgar Bergen. Rosa liked Jack Benny best, but Eddie Cantor was my favorite. Sunday nights belonged him. I adored his fast-talking, wise-cracking delivery, but what I liked most of all was that he was a monologue merchant. The other ...
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).
Full Review (838 words).
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 ...
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