Sunny's bookshelf
Sunny's bookshelf photo by Judy Solomon

Online book reviews since 2011, the very best in reviewing – connecting good readers with equally good writers

Sometimes when picking a new book to review, it’s best not to look at the advance praise printed on the back cover. Words like “epic, intimate, triumph, tragedy and funny” did not prepare me for what was in store in Alex George’s debut novel, A Good American.

The tale begins with a song, sung with love by Frederick Meisenheimer. He is hiding behind a bush in the Grosse Garten in Hanover, Germany as the woman of his dreams, Jette Furst, approaches. Frederick’s voice, “as pure as a freshly struck bell,” falls on Jette “like a shower of jasmine.” My first thought on reading this was, Are you kidding? But I trusted George and forged ahead. He wastes no time; by Chapter Two, they have fallen in love, Jette is pregnant three pages later, and by Chapter Three, they board the good ship Copernicus and are married by its captain before setting sail for “the Land of the Free” in the year 1904.

Most European immigrant sagas begin with New York as both destination from a past and portal to a future. But the Copernicus’ destination is New Orleans, and it is there that the Meisenheimers first set foot on American soil. From New Orleans, Frederick and a very pregnant Jette, in an unlikely series of events, find themselves in Beatrice, Missouri, the city in which their family will take root.

James Meisenheimer, the second of Frederick and Jette’s four grandsons, is the narrator who speaks of the characters and incidents that leave their marks on three generations of Meisenheimers. Singing and music run through the narrative, from Frederick’s operatic beer hall singing to ragtime, the beginnings of blues, barbershop harmony and all the way into the close harmony of the four Meisenheimer grandsons who are equally sought for performing not just at weddings, but funerals, as well. Music provides the historical context of the family’s experience which includes two world wars, indifferent and murderous racism, natural disasters, economic failure, prohibition and the social mores of modern America.

Music and love are at the core of this novel, and with the inventive pen of Alex George, the reader is treated to rare insights into the immigrant experience of Middle America. The saga has all the elements of any truly human story: love, hate, death, betrayal and long-held secrets. Frederick Meisenheimer, who wants only to be a good American, is both a genuine and satirical role model. It took this reviewer a while before she got it. But Alex George, like Frederick and Jette Meisenheimer, is himself an immigrant to America, and maybe it takes an immigrant to tell this tale with such captivating humor and pathos.

Midway through the novel, I could almost hear Ethel Merman belting out Let Me Entertain You. It was a bit like getting the rhythm of something you thought you’d heard before, but not quite. They may never play A Good American at a World Series opener, but they should. This book could be a new National Anthem.      –  Sunny Solomon


Add your thoughts and comments...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this Review

Related Reviews

My Beloved World

My Beloved World

Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Supreme Court Justice, brings the breadth and depth of her lived experiences to her memoir, My Beloved World. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia

Read More »


Horse – Once again, Geraldine Brooks uncovers little known parts of our American history. She moves us from 2019 back to the pre-Civil War south,

Read More »
Billy Blaster and the Robot Army from Outer Space

Billy Blaster

BILLY BLASTER AND THE ROBOT ARMY FROM OUTER SPACE – not necessarily a graphic novel only for the younger reader. No matter how old you

Read More »

About the Reviewer

Sign up for reviews by email

You’ll get email updates from Bookin’ with Sunny when we add a new review or blog post, and we never share your email with anyone else.

Shopping in-store is back!

Support your local community’s economic growth by shopping for books at your independent bookstore in person, online at their website, or by phone.