Alex George carries the reader through the family history of the Meisenheimer family told through the first person narration of James, a third generation German American born and raised in a small town in Missouri with no qualms about revealing the many character defects within his family tree. James Meisenheimer begins with the love story of his grandparents, Frederick, an opera singer, and Jette, an ample woman that falls in love with him. They leave Germany to escape her mother’s fury after Jette becomes pregnant, and head to America.
James’ father Joseph is born in Beatrice, Missouri, and that is where Frederick and Jette begin their lives together. Frederick is captivated by America, but Jette misses her family and secretly sends them letters that remain unanswered.
Frederick wants to be a good American, and when America joins the fight in WWI, he enlists over Jette’s strenuous objections. Their love is severely tested, and Jette turns the tavern that Frederick secretly bought into a successful restaurant. Joseph works at the restaurant and falls in love with a neighbor girl Cora. They have marry and have four sons, and Joseph forms the boys into a musical quartet, continuing in the family tradition of performing music.
James grows up working in the restaurant, but although he tries to escape Beatrice as his brothers do, he is stuck in town, caring for his ailing grandmother and keeping his aunt Rosa company.
The town of Beatrice is an important character in the story as well as are the residents who live there. Those who hale from small towns will recognize the characters. It was interesting to see the vicissitudes among the residents and the various changes in Beatrice.
Responsibility to your family, the dangers of keeping secrets and what it means to be a good American, are explored in this beautiful story, which George peels back like an onion. Just like life, this book contains joy and sadness; anyone in a family will relate.
A Good American by Alex George Book Review
Those who are music lovers will enjoy this book.