Thursday, February 21, 2013

Weekend Reading: A Good American

A Good American by Alex George.  Penguin 2012.

I was just complaining to someone a while back about how no one writes multigenerational epics anymore.  I was pretty young when this was a major literary trend, but I remember scavenging my mother's book collection and finding Sidney Sheldon books like Master of the Game and Windmills of the Gods which covered a family over many years, and were just fascinating.  I've had people come into the library as well and ask if we had multigenerational sagas, but all the ones I could find were quite old and the person had already read them.

Now I have a new one to recommend: A Good American.

I honestly had no idea what to expect with this book, but I really, really liked it.  It's a pretty slim volume, but it's written in a kind of languid pace and since it covers three generations, it seems much longer--but in a good way.  I savored this book, which is unusual for me because I usually just blast right through and finish a book in about two days (I'm not bragging, I'm just an impatient person).

Best takeaways:

Hard Work:  Frederick and Jette Meisenheimer are German immigrants who somewhat unexpectedly land in Beatrice Mississippi when Jette gives birth to their son Joseph a couple days early, before they can make it to St. Louis.  They befriend the local doctor, who also owns the local bar, start working for him, and eventually buy the bar.  Once prohibition takes hold, they convert the bar into a lunch restaurant, then an all day place.  I don't know what it is, maybe I just yearn for a simpler time, but I love stories about people who just work hard and profit because of it.  There's no strategy (aide from giving people what they want i.e. booze or food), there's no investment scheme, just good, honest (for the most part) work.

Barbershop Quartet: The Meisenheimer's are also quite musical, and Frederick and Jette wind up with four grandsons--the perfect number for a babershop quartet.  I don't know why I found this who storyline so interesting, but it was just neat.  This was something I've never thought about before, and the music lifestyle is one I know nothing about.

Charming Anecdotes:  Since this is a story about so many people, it's just jampacked with funny little incidents of every day life, which is something I really enjoy in books.  Overall, it's a serious work, but there are just so many funny insertions and hilarious asides that I was cracking up way more than I thought I would.  I don't want to give anything away, but trust me when I say that this book is much funnier than its cover would let you believe.

Overall, I enjoyed this book tremendously, and I'm so glad I got to read it.  I never would have picked this up on my own, and I'm really looking forward to the discussion in the BlogHer Book Club, which I encourage everyone to check out as well.

I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I'm going to check this one out. I haven't ready any except for Middlesex, and I loved that book, so I should try another multigen epic.

  2. This has been on my reading list for a while now (as have many grownup books...sigh). I must say, I really like the cover of the hardcover better. It's less generic feeling.

    1. I agree, the cover is pretty weak and that would have totally kept me from reading this book.