Book Review: A Good American

I was compensated for this review by the BlogHer Book Club. The opinions expressed are my own.

So. What to say about The Good American by Alex George.


Before I start, I want to say something: I didn’t not like this book. It was a fairly charming story about a time period I happen to enjoy reading about.

That being said, I’m not sure I liked it.

Here’s the thing: I’ve studied writing for a while. I’ve been writing even longer. So I know and readily admit that often times writers ten to develop things. Things they do in their writing that sort if become habits. If we were boxers, we would call them tells, or something like that.

They become even more apparent in long-form writing, because usually a writer will employ these same tricks over and over again, not even realizing they’re doing it. It’s like when you’re in a job interview and you keep using the same phrase over and over again. Eventually, it jut sounds tired and phony.

The Good American‘s tell? Cliffhanger sentences. If I had to read the phrase “but things were about to get so much worse than we had ever imagined” one more time, I was going to tear the book in half.

Because you can’t use the shocking sentence every time, remember? Sooner or later, you need the story to propel the reader on, not the narrator.

And while this book is riddled with tragedy, there are only a few things that happen that are actually shocking. Really, it’s just a wee bit depressing (but mostly because the narrator sounds a bit bored with the whole thing most of the time). Even the actual surprise near the end is just kind of…confusing.

See why I had to start this post with a disclaimer? Because, really, it’s not that I didn’t like the book. The Good American follows the life of an immigrant family making their way through America at the turn of the century. It’s interesting reading how the family learns to adapt with the changing times and to see how these changes are reflected in their family business, a bar-turned-restaurant-turned-diner.

So, I liked the book. I just didn’t love it. I read it in one sitting on a 6-hour plane ride, which is probably for the best because if I had put it down, I didn’t have much impetus to pick it back up. (Despite all those (gasp!) cliffhangers.)

Have you read this book? Did you have similar hangups? Or do I just need to embrace the drama?

Join the BlogHer Book Club in our discussions here.