A Good American
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“A beautifully written novel, laced with history and music.” —Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven
A LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A BOOKPAGE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
Everything he’d seen had been unimaginably different from the dry, dour streets of home, and to his surprise he was not sorry in the slightest. He was smitten by the beguiling otherness of it all.
And so began my grandfather’s rapturous love affair with America—an affair that would continue until the day he died.
This is the story of the Meisenheimer family, told by James, a third-generation American living in Beatrice, Missouri. It’s where his German grandparents—Frederick and Jette—found themselves after journeying across the turbulent Atlantic, fording the flood-swollen Mississippi, and being brought to a sudden halt by the broken water of the pregnant Jette.
A Good American tells of Jette’s dogged determination to feed a town sauerkraut and soul food; the loves and losses of her children, Joseph and Rosa; and the precocious voices of James and his brothers, sometimes raised in discord…sometimes in perfect harmony.
But above all, A Good American is about the music in Frederick’s heart, a song that began as an aria, was jazzed by ragtime, and became an anthem of love for his adopted country that the family still hears to this day.
sit down and eat anymore. The nation had climbed into its car, and was reluctant to get out again. Identical drive-through establishments were sprouting up at every highway intersection, a sinister proliferation along America’s arteries. Mammoth corporate franchises competed for market share, coldly slashing prices until smaller restaurants were forced to close down. Luckily for me, none of the big fast-food companies yet had their greedy eyes on our little rural paradise back then. Still, I
life in Missouri, I have mine here. I’d like to keep it that way.” I was momentarily tongue-tied by his presumption. “Okay,” I said. He looked thoughtful. “You know, though, there’s something I’d like you to have before you go.” I waved a hand at him, not interested in his halfhearted bribery. “No need. I’ll keep my word, you’ll see. I’m not going to bother you.” “Really. Dad brought it with him from Missouri. I guess it reminded him of where he’d come from. I’d like you to
she said, “he’s gone.” There was a pause. “I’m sorry,” said Polk. “Who’s gone?” Jette looked around her. The last time she had been inside the Nick-Nack was the night of Joseph’s ill-fated opera recital. “I suppose you imagine you’ll be in charge now.” Polk’s face was blank. “In charge?” “There’s no need to pretend anymore, Polk,” Jette said, sighing. “It’s happened. Frederick has gone.” At this Polk leaned weakly on the handle of his broom. “Gone where?” The
his eyes squeezed shut as he pretended to pray. It was the only lie he ever told her. TWENTY-TWO When she wasn’t busing dishes at Frederick’s, Rosa was plotting her escape. Formal education was of minimal interest to our little community of farmers back then. The town’s school had been run for years by Heidi Schlatt, who had watched several generations of children stumble through its doors. She believed that her role was more pastoral than strictly educational. More
Code of the Woosters is so convoluted that any attempt at summary is doomed to failure. It is a story of policemen’s helmets, antique cow-creamers, and temperamental French chefs. There are splenetic magistrates, weak-chinned aristocrats, doe-eyed maidens, and a would-be fascist dictator who designs ladies’ underwear. There is theft, burglary, and blackmail. All this is delivered in Bertie Wooster’s trademark high-narrative style. His rhetorical flourishes rained down on me like a shower of mud,