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A Good American by Alex George

A Good American (edition 2012)

by Alex George

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3784928,622 (3.86)1 / 36
Title:A Good American
Authors:Alex George
Info:Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 400 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Historical Fiction, humor

Work details

A Good American by Alex George

Recently added byCydMelcher, MaureenCean, swssms, pammosk, private library, LindaEdwards, historywhiz
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    Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman (arielfl)
    arielfl: Both novels are sweeping multi generational stories of immigrants who experience equal doses of tragedy and success.

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Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
Started slowly but built to a nice pace in the latter half. An interesting inspection of what it was like to be newly-arrived in the land of opportunity. ( )
  VashonJim | Sep 5, 2015 |
This book has one of the best first lines EVER. I was struck so much by it, that upon reading it, I had to stop, just to take a quick snapshot.

"Always, there was music."


A Good American is the story of a German immigrant, his family, and their story. The story spans through 4 generations, and covers nearly a century. Although told as one continuous story, the book is definitely separated into parts, and I found I liked the bookends (the first and last parts of the book) better than its middle. While the story kept my interest, I felt that the writing was better in the beginning. As the novel went on, especially as it moved into the experiences of 4 teenage boys, it got a little too hormonal for my liking, but then in the end, things wrapped up neatly with some pretty surprising twists. I did like the music motif that ran throughout the book, and I liked how everything was connected in its own way. It was almost an epic, considering how the author wove parts of American history right into the novel and showed how even a family of German descent in small town American still has its brushes with important historical moments. 3.5 of 5 stars. ( )
  lauraodom | Feb 17, 2014 |
I received this audiobook for review, and even though I was unfamiliar with the title, I was eager to try out a new historical fiction. Of course now I’m seeing this book advertised everywhere. A Good American is an entertaining read about the Meisenheimer family and their ups and downs across generations. The book takes on the idea of what it means to be an American through the immigrant family’s example. It didn’t take long for me to be hooked on the story and I finished the audio in no time.

The saga begins in 1904 when Frederick and Jette Meisenheimer fall in love in Hanover, Germany. When Jette becomes pregnant it shames her mother, and the couple hastily leaves for America. They finally settle in Beatrice, Missouri, home to other German immigrants, with their new son Joseph. There’s a language, cultural and financial barrier to overcome, as well as the stress of being new parents. Frederick and Jette are challenged to build a new life in America from scratch for their family. The couple’s grandson, James, narrates their tale.

Though times change throughout the book, one thing that is consistent is that food and music are always present in the Meisenheimer’s lives. The tradition starts with gifted singer Frederick, and the talent is passed down all the way to their grandsons. The family also appreciates all kinds of music and at the different incarnations of their family-run dining establishment you can see the styles of music as well as menu options change with the times.

Each generation of the family has an interesting story to tell. And even though I would get attached to the story I was listening to, I was quickly caught up in the next generation’s journey. In addition to the Meisenheimer family, there are an entertaining cast of side characters woven into the story. Humor also keeps the book from ever becoming too heavy. Though the book loses a little steam for me towards the end, there’s an interesting twist that pulled me back in.

Gibson Frazier narrates the audio, and his storytelling abilities complement the book well. His reading drew me into the story, and he conveys the appropriate emotion and energy throughout. He uses different dialects for the characters but it is not overdone. I’m sure the book is great too, but I’m glad that I got the chance to listen to the audio. I started in on a new audio right after but found myself missing listening to A Good American.

I think this book will appeal to those that enjoy historical fiction, or books like Water for Elephants or The Help. It’s a really interesting look at American history as well as a wonderful family drama, and it would make an excellent book club choice. ( )
  readingdate | Jan 7, 2014 |
As a granddaughter of German immigrants to Missouri, I was drawn to this book based on the book flap. Must admit, the cover of a woman's hands and red suitcase on the front didn't particularly excite me. I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't totally drawn into the book either.

I felt the beginning was very strong; I liked the characters of Jette and Frederick. Their trip to the United States from Germany did seem rather glossed over, but yet it held my attention. (If those hands on the front of the book are to be Jette's, they are much too delicate.) Their landing in Beatrice, Missouri also seemed believable. From then on, however, there were events that really were a stretch. First, the fact that Lomax, a black man they met in New Orleans, shows up in Beatrice seems too much of a coincidence. Then there is little indication of any racial tension in the town of Beatrice until Lomax is lynched. Then there is that section of the boy who continues to grow into a giant and a dwarf attorney, both residents of this small town. I did some eye-rolling during this middle part of the book. Yet, as I continued, I liked the tying up of the family characters and did appreciate the plot twist at the end.

I would certainly read this author again as I do believe this in an interesting and rather charming first novel. Hopefully, he will be able to tie plot lines together a bit tighter and leave out the "unusual" characters. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 23, 2013 |
A Serenade of Che Bella Vita (A Beautiful Life) January 13, 2012


Format:Hardcover|Amazon Vine™ Review (What's this?)

"Always there was music." Frederick, an amateur opera singer, serenades a tall, wide-eyed German girl. So begins the courtship of Frederick and Jette, who, after she becomes pregnant, flee their unhappy life in Germany for America. The early twentieth century found countless immigrants flooding into New York through Ellis Island. In 1904, Jette and Frederick board a ship to New Orleans instead. "What's the difference? They're both new." Frederick, who speaks no English, steps into a jazz club and, enamored with the new musical genre, begins his love affair with America.

They ultimately settle in the tiny town of Beatrice, Missouri where we meet a plethora of bizarre and lovable characters. Frederick, although prone to mistake making and overindulging in his cups, is genial and lovable. Jetta, his wife, is bland in comparison. The family lives through prohibition, the Great Depression and the Kennedy assassination. The epic spans a century, but reads like a two-hour movie.

Dazzling and well-crafted, A Good American is replete with stunning prose and lovable characters. James, grandson of Frederick and Jette, relates the stories of the Meisenheimer generations. Abrupt changes of perspective, from easily flowing narrator to James's first person voice, interrupt the flow of the novel. Endorsements by many bestselling authors are paraded in the book's publicity. They may assist book browsers, but the book stands on its own as a bittersweet tale of America's melting pot and how our common bonds as citizens far outweigh any ethnic or cultural differences.

Alex George, writer and lawyer, enjoys jazz, playing saxophone and cooking. Music winds in and out of the story. No doubt his experience as an immigrant to Missouri provided fodder for this original and insightful tale of America's melting pot.

Laugh, cry, and cheer for the Meisenheimer family. Intensity and humor, discord and harmony co-exist in this great story--as they do in life. Highly recommended. ( )
  lmbigens | May 28, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
Despite some dark moments, the book's overall tone is warm and nostalgic as the couple's grandson tells his family's story. George's narrator is bland when compared with his more colorful relatives, and this causes the novel to lose steam once the focus is on his own experiences rather than those of his parents and grandparents. Nonetheless, this memorable and well-written exploration of one family's search for acceptance in America should strongly appeal to readers who enjoy family sagas and historical fiction.
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Mara Bandy (Dec 1, 2011)
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Book description
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 NT, at the last minute they take one destined for New Orleans ("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 filled 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 ancestor's story comes to realize he doesn't know his own at all. From bare-knuckle prizefighting and Prohibition to sweet barbershop harmonies, the Kennedy assassination, and beyond, Jame'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. (978-0-399-15759-2)
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The Meisenheimer family struggles to find their place among the colorful residents of their new American hometown, including a giant teenage boy, a pretty schoolteacher whose lessons consist of more than music, and a spiteful, bicycle-riding dwarf.

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