Book: A Good American by Alex George, Penguin Audio, February 7, 2012
Audiobook Info: Historical Fiction, Audiobook provided by Penguin Audio, Audio length: 11.5 hours/ 10 CD’s, read by Gibson Frazier.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
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.
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