Earlier this year I read/listened to A Good American. I wrote about it over at Quirk Girls Read. I am still thinking about the family members that populated this story. I decided to tell you about it here on Joyfully Retired in case some of you missed it.
It seems so fitting for this week when we are celebrating the creation of our country. For almost everyone I know, this is pretty much a family holiday. Most of us gather to gorge on grilled meats, baked beans, potato salad, and other yummy foods and drinks. We play games or swim, get sunburned, tired, and by the end of the day we are looking skyward to catch sight of celebratory fireworks.
As a group of people and as a country, we are not perfect. We have some bad eggs. The nature of the human race guarantees that every group gets a few. However, instead of looking at the small percentage of miscreants, I like focusing on the millions of our citizens who work hard, help out their neighbors, and look for ways to make life better at their work-places, houses of worship, political parties, and especially, their own families. These are the Good Americans. Everyday, as we interact in our communities, these are the people we meet. [I’m sure my readers in Australia have the same experioence, except you call them Good Australians.]
Author Alex George created the Meisenheimer family found in The Good American. It’s a family saga covering four generations. I like to think the members of the Meisenheimer family represent us all. Their story is certainly similar to my own family’s. My great-grandparents emigrated from Germany as did Frederick and Jette Meisenheimer. My ancestors settled in Wisconsin, the Meisenheimers in Beatrice, Missouri.
The first thing they did was search for a way to make a living, trying one job and then another. They made friends, joined worship services, sent their children to school, and actively enjoyed singing. They became a part of the community.
As I read A Good American I saw the faces of my great-grandparents, great uncles and aunts, and then my own grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins instead of the fictional Meisenheimers. Not all of their actions matched those of my family, but we were quite similar. We both had secrets, tragedies, hard times, and some members who were an embarrassment. Isn’t that the story of all families?
Underlying it all was a profound sense of gratitude. No matter what pushed the families to move to the new world, they were thankful for the better life they believed they had both found and created. That sense of gratitude was passed on to future generations and is still with our family today. We are grateful to be Americans, and we each strive to be A Good American.
Happy Independence Day Everyone!
A Good American was written by Alex George and published by Penguin. This book is one of the always excellent Amy Einhorn Imprints, 2012. I listened to the audiobook version narrated superbly by Gibson Frazier.