BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Schroder by Amity Gaige

schroderThis is an immigration story. But not the sort of immigration I’ve become accustomed to … only a select few could make the sort of metamorphosis that being white and male affords Erik Schroder who, at 14, reinvents himself at a summer camp as Eric Kennedy. While an immigrant from, say, Asia or Africa, could make a similar change in nomenclature, he would be hard-pressed to carry off the new identity without at least a raised eyebrow. When Erik dons his storied moniker, just by virtue of his being an attractive white male, assumptions are made and eagerly accepted; he never denies those too ready to imbue him with Kennedy connections.

And yet Erik Schröder was born in East Germany. He lost his mother during his flight with his father across their divided homeland from East to West, then both father and son misplaced the umlauted-ö upon arrival in the new country. The pair eventually settled not too far from Boston, and given his youth, Erik was willfully able to shed his foreign accent. His carefully chosen moniker was inspired by that mythic American Berliner himself, a reference to JFK’s famed 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner”-speech (while grammatically accurate, the “I’m a jelly donut”-translation in this context is urban legend).

[Allow me a momentary logistical rant: if you’re casting for a reader for a book about a German immigrant, wouldn’t you find a narrator who might speak a little German?! Although Will Collyer is more than adequate as long as he reads in English, his German, alas, barely improves over the seven hours stuck in the ears.]

By the time Eric Kennedy has graduated high school, then college, married, and become a father to his own child, he’s grown accustomed to his self-annointed American identity. But a life built on lies is fragile at best: what was once a happy, nuclear family begins to implode. Suddenly, Eric is living alone, and relying on lawyers to get him access to his beloved 6-year-old daughter Meadow. In a fit of frustrated desperation, Eric takes Meadow too far – literally.

And so Amity Gaige‘s latest novel begins. Held in custody, Eric refuses to speak; instead he writes page after page, explaining how he ended up a wanted felon. It’s a love letter to his estranged wife, a tome of devotion to their daughter, a plea for sympathy of his jailers, and a desperate treatise attempting to confirm his own sanity. As readers, we get to play judge: to believe or not believe … that will be the ultimate question.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2013


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