The book is narrated by James Meisenheimer. It begins in Germany with his grandmother and grandfather, Frederick and Jette. I loved their story, and enjoyed following them as they moved to America and built a new life in Missouri.
I liked the multi-generational aspect of the book, and seeing how the changes in America touched the Meisenheimer family and their business.
James' role as an omniscient narrator during the first two thirds of the book is believable. As James tells his grandparent's story, I can accept that he may have access to letters and journals to fill in any blanks, and to provide the thoughts and feelings of the people involved. When the story reaches James' lifetime, his narration became a distraction. The author shares details of other people's lives that James would have no way of knowing.
There are other problems with the final third of A Good American. I was invested in the stories of Frederick and Jette, but James was the least interesting of the Meisenheimers. I found myself completely unconcerned about what would happen to him.
Once James enters high school, the book devolves into the ridiculous. Every couple of chapters, Alex George introduces a new character. Most of these characters are killed off quickly, before the reader has a chance to develop any real connection with them. They are also highly unbelievable; each one worse than the last. It was almost like a collection of bizarre short stories was thrown on the end of the well-developed story of the first two generations of Meisenheimers. It felt like a completely different book.
If I could chop off the final third, and pretend it had never happened, it would be a very lovely book.
Have you read A Good American?
I want to know if you had different feelings than I did about the final third. You can join in the conversation, and find out more about A Good American at BlogHer.
*Legal Stuff: This was a review for the BlogHer Book Club. I was provided a copy of the book by BlogHer, and compensated for my time. The opinions expressed are my own, and I was not required to say nice things.