Attending a New England summer camp, young Eric Schroder - a first-generation East German immigrant - adopts the last name Kennedy to more easily fit in, a fateful white lie that will set him on an improbable and ultimately tragic course.
Schroder relates the story of Eric's urgent escape years later to Lake Champlain, Vermont, with his six-year-old daughter, Meadow, in an attempt to outrun the authorities amid a heated custody battle with his wife, who will soon discover that her husband is not who he says he is. From a correctional facility, Eric surveys the course of his life to understand - and maybe even explain - his behavior: the painful separation from his mother in childhood; a harrowing escape to America with his taciturn father; a romance that withered under a shadow of lies; and his proudest moments and greatest regrets as a flawed but loving father.
Alternately lovesick and ecstatic, Amity Gaige's deftly imagined novel offers a profound meditation on history and fatherhood, and the many identities we take on in our lives - those we are born with and those we construct for ourselves.
What follows is a record of where Meadow and I have been since our disappearance.
My lawyer says I should tell the whole story. Where we went, what we did, who we met, etc. As you know, Laura, I'm not a reticent person. I'm talkativeyou could even say chattyfor a man. But I haven't spoken a word for days. It's a vow I've taken. My mouth tastes old and damp, like a cave. It turns out I'm not very good at being silent. There are castles of things I want to tell you. Which might explain the enthusiasm of this document, despite what you could call its sad story.
My lawyer also says that this document could someday help me in court. So it's hard not to also think of this as a sort of plea, not just for your mercy, but also for that of a theoretical jury, should we go to trial. And in case the word jury sounds exciting to you (it did to me, for a second), I've since learned that a jury gets all kinds of things wrong, ...
Having read Amity Gaige's previous two books, I anticipated the beauty of her latest novel, Schroder. What I didn't anticipate was the weightiness of it, her ability to take the slightest moments and the lightest phrases and mold them into matters of great consequence. I also enjoyed Gaige's more substantial plot: this novel, though still quite lyrical, has the suspense and forward action that were sometimes lacking in her previous two books.
(Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).
Full Review (692 words).
In the interview at the close of the novel, Gaige reveals that an Associated Press snippet about the Clark Rockefeller case was the seed idea for her story. Though Gaige states she chose not to research in detail this tale of a con man turned kidnapper, a great deal of information is readily available via news stories.
Rockefeller, whose real name is Christian Gerhartsreiter, rushed his daughter Reigh into a waiting limousine during a supervised custodial visit in July of 2008. Gerhartsreiter's devotion to his daughter was apparently the one thing that could bring down his house of cards - a lifetime of pretending to be someone else. In 2009, he was convicted of kidnapping his daughter and received a sentence of four to five years in ...
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