Growing up in a small Missouri town with a family history of German immigrants coming to Missouri (my great-great grandparents)I was surprised at how well the author captured life in a small German-heritage town, since he is an immigrant to the US as well – from England. But we all search for what it means to call a place home and to find a place we fit in… in our communities and in our own families.
You follow a young couple in 1904 who flee her disapproving family to America. They plan to settle in New York but end up taking a boat to New Orleans… not realizing how different that could be and end up taking a journey up the Missouri River and finally settle in the fictional small town of Beatrice, Missouri, a town with many other German immigrants.
The story is narrated by the couples’ grandson, James who discovers at the end that he doesn’t really know his own story and his own family at all. You follow the family through prohibition, WWII when Frederick joins up because he wants most of all to be a “Good American”, the Kennedy assassination and beyond. Throughout the story, music plays an important role in how the family members relate to the community and to each other. Each member of the family has to find their place in this new country, in their town and in their family and what it means to be a “Good American.” If you’ve ever felt like an outsider in your own hometown, your school or even your own family you will relate to these characters search for a place to call home.