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Schroder: A Novel by Amity Gaige
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Schroder: A Novel (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Amity Gaige

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Title:Schroder: A Novel
Authors:Amity Gaige
Info:Twelve (2013), Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Schroder by Amity Gaige (2013)

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
A moving novel, in the form of a first person confession by a father who kidnaps his six year old daughter from his estranged wife, goes on the run for about a week and (eerily given the timing) is finally caught in a manhunt in Boston.

As a father of a 6 year-old (and, like the narrator, born in 1970--although the similarities end there given his East German birth, general fraudulence, and estrangement from his wife), I found Eric Kennedy's relationship with his daughter believable, touching, and painful--as he struggles with how to engage with her and then only finally figures it out in their last hours together before his arrest.

The narrative voice was also well done, with a resoundingly authentic and earnest but not always fully self-aware recounting of a less than authentic life. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Eric Kennedy has been arrested for kidnapping his five-year old daughter Meadow and endangering her life in the process of hiding out from authorities. We learn through Eric's explanatory letter to his ex-wife about the days that Meadow was with him and why he did it that he is in fact Eric Schroder, a German immigrant who arrived with his father from East Berlin in the sixties and invented Eric Kennedy as a way of being accepted at summer camp one summer. His whole life is revealed as fantasy supplemented with alcohol. He has little knowledge or insight into himself, but believes that he truly and completely loves his daughter, although his judgement is not the best or his behaviour. Interesting topic and approach to it. ( )
  CarterPJ | Nov 15, 2013 |
"I have told stories, in fact, that were elaborate-you could say-fictions, and although these fictions were not meant to defraud or to injure, I always knew-I knew in fact-that they would."

The book is narrated by Eric Kennedy as an apology letter to his estranged wife Laura, after being put in jail for abducting their daughter Meadow during a regular supervised parental visit. They were deeply in love before, but sometime during their marriage, like 50% of other marriages in the US, it fell apart. He then lost custody of the person he loves most. During that particular visit, Eric suddenly had a spontaneous urge to spend more time with Meadow, whom he deeply loves. He decided to take her for a prolonged trip, without consulting his wife Laura, who would have just said no to the request anyway. The complicated part is, Eric Kennedy was not a man he claimed he was, so the deceit was much more than a simple prolonged visit.

Eric's real name was Eric Schroder. He emigrated from East Germany with his Father when young. He had a harsh childhood that he has been trying desperately to forget. During a summer when he was applying for a prestige summer camp, he changed his last name to Kennedy. He got in. The name also got him into college with scholarship. When he met Laura, he was still a Kennedy who grew up somewhere near Hyannis Port. After marrying Laura, to protect his identity that he loved so much, he decided to stop visiting his Father.

From the first few pages of the book, we knew all about Eric and everything I mentioned above. We knew how the book was going to end and how unlikable Eric is. We knew that he was caught, thus the apology letter. We also knew that Eric was an emotionally non-existent husband, an unreliable Father, a pathological liar. He leaps before he thinks; he had no concern about anybody else but himself. Knowing the plot ahead of time, the fact that I actually finished the book, and gave it 5-stars, indicates how brilliantly this book was written.

This book falls into the strange book category that I can't classify simply, which includes [b:The Death of Bees|15818333|The Death of Bees|Lisa O'Donnell|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1358353202s/15818333.jpg|18334314], [b:Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See|13573378|Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See|Juliann Garey|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1349395507s/13573378.jpg|19154353], and [b:Where'd You Go, Bernadette|12611253|Where'd You Go, Bernadette|Maria Semple|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1337700112s/12611253.jpg|17626728]: brilliant writing, unforgettable characters and even thought-provoking questions. Since this whole book is narrated in Eric’s voice, one could only understand the other characters from glimpses in his narration, which is unreliable since he’s a liar. However, we did understand Laura’s frustration when he described his life with her. We knew Meadow is exceptionally intelligent from his conversations with his daughter. We got how irresponsible, unreliable, lack of common sense, extremely self-absorbed, spontaneous, unpredictable Eric is. The strange part is, due to the talented writing, we somehow started rooting for him or rather, his voice, regardless of all his faults. We found his love for his wife and daughter genuine, his pain substantial, his lies…somewhat understandable. His narration was so powerful that sometimes the readers need a break to recuperate from their emotions. We even found him brilliant in his study of “pauses.”

”I’ve always been fascinated by – and uncomfortable with – pauses. My research forced me to see that short pockets of silence were everywhere and that even sound needs silence in order to be sound. There are tiny silences all over this page. Between paragraphs. Between these very words. Still, they can be lonesome. So for all my project’s shortcomings, I’d say the worst is that I haven’t shaken the lonesome feeling that pauses give me. Sometimes I still wish there weren’t any silences at all. And so it is with some reluctance that I give you this one.”

The author did an awesome job on this wonderfully and beautifully written book. I don’t normally re-read books, but I might re-read this one just to roll those words and phrases on my tongue again.

Note: I did not hear about the comparison of this story to the real story of the con man Clark Rockefeller until I finished the book. I think [b:The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor|10263986|The Man in the Rockefeller Suit The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor|Mark Seal|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1311281812s/10263986.jpg|15164363] may be a great next read! ( )
  lovestampmom | Aug 8, 2013 |
The story -- told in sort of a memoir/accounting of time -- of a dad who goes off the deep end during his divorce (and limited visitation rights) and takes (some say kidnaps) his daughter on a week-long adventure/vacation. More interestingly, the novel is written by a woman. Overall, I found it an enjoyable read, though frustrating at times. There are some interesting twists and turns, but it's hard to root for a guy who is a bit clueless -- and who punishes his soon to be ex-wife by not contacting her while he has their daughter. ( )
  Randall.Hansen | Jul 3, 2013 |
When you were little, did you create alternate lives for yourself? I did. I had an entire imaginary world where I played a completely different person than I was in real life. I thoroughly enjoyed make-believe. But these imaginings were harmless and never permanent. In Amity Gaige's thought-provoking new novel, Schroder, the main character goes far beyond my childhood pretending and creates a completely new identity, slipping into it nearly seamlessly, and wearing it more comfortably than his actual identity. So who is he really? Is he the new created persona or is he the person whose skin he's trying to shed or will he forever uncomfortably and uneasily carry both of these people together in himself?

At the outset of the novel, he is in jail awaiting sentencing for the kidnapping of his beloved six year old daughter, Meadow, while in the midst of a heated custody battle and a prolonged divorce. Writing a letter to his estranged wife to explain his actions and in the hopes that offering his version of the truth will mitigate his punishment, the novel is his explanation of his life, the reason behind the assumption of his new identity, and what ultimately made him take Meadow and keep running. And as his story unspools, despite the fact that there's no doubt that he did in fact steal away his daughter, the reader feels sympathy with his desperation over the dwindling amount of time that this former stay at home dad now gets to spend with the child who was once a focus of his days. But just as his actions start to seem, in some small way, understandable, and his sadly naive ignorance of the impact of his separation becomes clear, just as these things strike the reader, tiny cracks start to show in his story and doubts start to creep in.

When Erik Schroder was five, he held his father's hand as they walked out of East Germany forever. They made their way to the US where he was tormented by the other kids in his working class neighborhood. It was as a young teenager escaping from this unfortunate background that he first created the persona of Eric Kennedy, a shirt-tail relative of "those Kennedys" and hailing from a quaint seaside town in Massachusetts in order to fit in to a summer camp. And because of the different way in which he was treated as the all-American Eric than as the German refugee Erik, he continued the ruse, applying to college and for a Pell Grant as Eric Kennedy. And it is as a Kennedy that he meets and woos future wife Laura. It is Eric Kennedy who she thinks she's married and with whom she has daughter Meadow. And it is Eric Kennedy who steals Meadow away. But it is Erik Schroder, unmasked and exposed, who is the fugitive and finally the felon awaiting trial and sentencing.

He manages to conceal the truth of his background and his identity as Erik Schroder from everyone around him, as truly becoming Eric Kennedy as he possibly could. Is he truly misunderstood or is he a master manipulator? It is his complete and total subterfuge that will compound the terrible error of his claimed spur of the moment decision to flee with Meadow. And this is where the reader must question his account of events. If his entire life and identity is based on lies and fraud, is a completely artificial construct, just exactly how much of his story and his justifications for the otherwise reprehensible action of kidnap can be believed? Is his week on the run with Meadow truly spur of the moment or was it calculated? Is he a distraught doting father, desperate for more time with his daughter like he claims or is there something else behind his flight?

It's hard to write a convincing unreliable narrator but Gaige manages to do just that and to do it beautifully. Eric seemed so sincere and even surprised by his own actions in the beginning, and yet... Despite the terrible crime he's committed, he never stops being at least a little convincing, a little charming, always a tiny shred of victim to him. And that's an impressive accomplishment for sure. Eric/Erik's letter to Laura can be meandering but the format offers an insight into the random and unfinished way in which his mind works and which, at least according to his truth, is one of the reasons she left him, so it ends up working despite the digressions, academic interjections, and footnotes. A fascinating look at the issue of identity and just how much of ourselves we can create for others before we've crossed a line, this novel will keep the reader thinking and still deciding on the extent of Schroder's guilt long after the end. ( )
  whitreidtan | Jun 27, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Gaige creates a fascinating and complex character in Erik, as he moves from the eccentric and slightly irresponsible father to a desperate man at the end of his rope. While the novel’s format occasionally lends itself to overly dramatic prose, this does not take away from its warmth and expert exploration of the immigrant experience, alienation, and the unbreakable bond between parent and child.
added by DorsVenabili | editBooklist, Kerri Price (pay site) (Nov 1, 2012)
 
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Ensconced in a correctional facility at the height of a custody battle with his estranged wife, Eric, a first-generation East German immigrant who changed his name as a youth, surveys his life to consider the disparity between his original and assumed identities.… (more)

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