I am being compensated by Blogher for this book review, but the ideas and opinions expressed in this post are my own.
This book was such a pleasant surprise for me that it's embarrassing for me to think back to a couple weeks ago when I was actually dreading reading it. Everything I read about the book beforehand made me think it was a historical novel and when I signed up to review it I half hoped I wouldn't be accepted (historical novels are not my thing at all). I was accepted and the dreading began. To my absolute delight, when I started reading the dread stopped right at the end of the first page.
There are so many things about this book that I loved, it was hard to decide what to choose to write about and where to start. I decided the beginning would be a good place. The story is narrated by the grandson of the characters who begin the novel. Grandpa and Grandma (as they become) immigrate to America from Germany and the novel traces their voyage and subsequent life in America.
Since I felt kind of deceived by the book blurbs I read I thought I'd write about some of the stuff I didn't read in any of the blurbs.
First: This is a love story on so many levels. First of all, it's a love story about the love a person has for their homeland and the love one can grow to have for their new land. There are few people who will not be able to relate to either the immigrant experience or the non-immigrant experience of simply having a deep love for your country - or both. The novel unfolds to also tell some fabulously unexpected love stories between characters. It tells about the love that comes from a friend. It explores the love that two people can have for each other that is not physical, but based on a deep friendship that crosses racial and cultural lines. And finally it is a story about love for music. I am not really a music lover myself, so I was surprised when I found myself interested in reading about the characters' passion for music. If you are a music lover I think you will appreciate the part music plays in this story even more.
Second: This is a coming of age novel of sorts. The narrator goes through his teen years in detail in the novel. This part of the story was surprising to me in the turn of subject matter from somewhat serious to teenage boyish. It was also humorous and at the same time heart breaking. This part of the story that dealt with coming of age in the 1950's made me think about how things have changed and how they've really stayed the same. There were bullies then and there are bullies now. Teen boys were hormone obsessed then and they are now. There was illegal drinking and smoking going on then and there is still illegal substance using going on. The intensity has changed, but the issues really haven't. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the novel. I laughed and cried.
Third: This is a story that entices the reader to continue reading. I loved the way the progress of the characters, the progress of America, and the progress of the restaurant business all moved the story along in an absolutely enthralling way. I admit I am a spoiler. It's embarrassing - but I almost always read the last page of a book first and I am constantly skipping chapters to read the next chapter and then going back and reading what I skipped over. I didn't do that this time and I am so glad! Alex George has a clever technique of leaving the reader questioning what's going to happen next nearly at the end of each chapter. He cleverly states things like, "The fierce love of Jette's family kept him there long after he should have been on his way." (Italics are mine.) This technique worked for me! I was captivated and wondering - okay, why did he say that - what's going to happen??? I patiently read every single page. In order. And, there is no spoiler alert for this post, but you do not want to read the end first and if you don't read until the end you will miss what some might consider the whole point of the novel. It is truly good until the last word.
I loved this book. I cried through most of the last chapters and I spent the two days after I finished the novel missing the characters and wishing I hadn't finished the book so that I could read more. I am looking forward to reading more from Alex George. .
So, what can I say? If you want a beautiful story about the human experience wrapped in a love story tied up with music and food that started with German immigrants - go out and get this book. We will be discussing this book over on Blogher and you can follow the discussion (trust me - it's bound to be interesting) at: https://www.blogher.com/bookclub/now-reading-good-american
Happy reading, friends!