A Good American – Reviews


“Alex George’s A Good American is one of the most moving books I’ve read in decades. The fact that my family emigrated from Europe only two generations ago may have touched an emotional button while absorbed in the compelling tale of two young lovers striking out for a strange land. However, readers whose ancestors arrived centuries ago from any continent or months ago from south of our border, can’t help but feel the tears well up and the guffaws blow out. Possibly the most overused cliché in the book world is ‘It made me laugh and it made me cry’. I actually sobbed out loud and moments later could not control several chuckles that burst right up through my throat. I cannot imagine a more wonderful read – unless it’s the next book Alex George writes.”

– Jake Reiss, The Alabama Booksmith, Birmingham, AL

“Stunning, just stunning. Meet the Meisenheimer family through the eyes of grandson James, as he relates the story of his immigrant family through nearly a decade of American history. Peppered with remarkable characters: a jazz trumpeter who cooks a mean gumbo, a promiscuos school teacher, a dwarf…need I say more? You will laugh out loud, then cry your eyes out. The prose is oftentimes poetic, i.e., ‘My grandmother’s life had been one long opera’. This novel is priceless and a gem of a read.”

– Carol Katsoulis, Anderson’s Bookshop, Naperville, IL

“A wonderful read!”

– Summer Anderson, Books A Million

“I just finished A Good American today in the wee hours. What an enjoyable read! I fully expect it to be a hit—it reminds me of The Master Butcher’s Singing Club. It was also vastly interesting to me because of the theme—German immigrants to a small MO town in the early part of the 20th century. I was so intrigued with the town, Beatrice, that I wrote to the author and asked him if he modeled it on my hometown, Hermann. He lives in Columbia, MO, which is but 50 miles from Hermann. Anyway, he wrote back saying that I was the second person to ask him that, but that he’s never even been to Hermann. However, I encouraged him to visit. We exchanged a couple congenial e-mails, but I wanted to let him know how much I enjoyed it. Thank you for sending it.”

– Lorayne Burns, Librarian, Lexington, KY

“This is the saga of an American family, from its origins in Germany through the unfolding generations in Missouri. Music winds its way thematically through this beautifully written book, connecting the characters to create a warm, wholesome story, full of laughter, sorrow, passion and tragedy.”

– Jennie Turner-Collins, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

“This century-long saga tells the tale of the Meisenheimer family beginning with Frederick and Jette as young emigrants leaving Hanover, Germany in 1904 and settling in the small town of Beatrice, Missouri with dreams of starting a new life. Filled with unforgettable characters, the story is narrated by grandson James who tells his ancestors’ journey through each new generation, only to discover he doesn’t know the truth of his own story at all. Tender moments sprinkled with humor, heartbreaking yet uplifting, about these small town families and the place they call home. A Good American is definitely a ‘must read’!”

– Carol Hicks, Bookshelf at Hooligan Rocks, Truckee, CA

“I just finished the galley A Good American by Alex George. It is one of the best books I have read this year. A warm, touching, sometimes sad and often funny story of three generations of the Meisenheimer family of Beatrice, Missouri. The narrator, James Meisenheimer, grows from child to man as he relates the tale of his family… his voice is always sympathetic to the shortcomings within his family and void of bitterness in the face of adversity. Many colorful characters are the icing on the cake in this delicious slice of early twentieth century life in the American Midwest.

– Susan Tyler, The Book Bin, Onley, VA

“Alex George’s debut novel is amazing: a compulsively readable epic spanning several generations of an immigrant American family. A Good American should appeal to all Americans and I look forward to seeing more from this author!”

– Lauren Peugh, Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop, La Verne, CA

“The narrator of A Good American says, at the end of the story, ‘I was the only one who had nowhere to look but back.’ And, what a gift to readers of this fine book that he did!

Sometimes it takes an observant, gifted immigrant (in this case a young Brit) to fully capture and describe the immigrant experience in America. Alex George does just that with lyrical writing describing an array of fascinating and lovable characters all woven together in this big, wonderful tale. He follows the Meisenheimer familly through several generations from their home in Germany to the United States where they, much like all our ancestors, become Americans. Once in a great while you pick up a book which has everything necessary to make it a truly satisfying read, and this one is all that! Don’t miss it!”

– Susie Fruncillo, Lake Country Booksellers, White Bear Lake, MN

“Alex George has crafted a most wonderful tale, beginning in 1904, and detailing the life of the Meisenheimer family. Spanning several generations, it made me laugh, it brought tears to my eyes and I loved every word of it.”

– Lyn Dulkinys, Anderson’s Bookshop, Naperville, IL

In these crazy, sad times, when fear and greed seem to be defining our responses to the problems we face, it was wonderful to be reminded of the irreplaceable role immigration has played in making our country great and the varied ways of being a good American. Frederick and Jette flee Prussia in 1904, making their new home in Missouri, and their story is told by their grandson, James. Like the best of family stories, A Good American is filled with the coincidences, missed connections, tragedy, and magic of ordinary life. George breaks your heart with the quiet sacrifices and secrets of his characters, but never forgets the wonder and humor of living. Carrying the reader across the generations, with music and food, religion and prohibition, racism and patriotism, A Good American makes this unique family’s story seem familiar in the best of ways.”

– Leslie Reiner, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL

“What is an American? If you look at our heritage, you’ll find that we’re all descended from immigrants. At the heart of this story is a good American, James Misenheimer, the grandson and son of good Americans, immigrants originally from Germany, living in the heart of the US in Missouri. I loved this book about their journey to and in a land where anything is possible.”

– Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC

“Isn’t always the hope every year that you can walk out of a regional trade show having discovered one incredible book? You guys have done it again because A Good American was just that book for me at MIBA. What a knock out! I lost this weekend to George’s Beatrice, Missouri and am the happier for it. I can’t wait to insist every buyer I meet with this fall immerse themselves in this amazingly powerful story about the growth of 20th century America through the eyes of one immigrant family.”

– Johanna Hynes, W.W. Norton & Company Rep

“As I turned the last page of A Good American, my six year old son said, ‘Mommy, why are you smiling and crying at the same time? Did the music book make you sad?’ I paused and answered, ‘Oh sweetie, that’s because this book is like listening to beautiful symphony; each note is filled with joy, sorrow, discovery, disappointment, and love, for family and the place we call home. My heart is full of the harmonies the author struck on each a every page. But most of all, Mommy is smiling because every note was a delight to read, and she is sad to reach the end.'”

– Anderson McKean, Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL


“This lush, epic tale of one family’s journey from immigrant to Good Americans had me alternately laughing and crying, but always riveted. It’s a rich, rare treat of a book, and Alex George is a first-rate talent.”

– Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

“As epic as an opera, as intimate as a lullaby, A Good American swept me through an entire century of triumph and tragedy with the wonderful Meisenheimer family. By turns laugh-out-loud funny and achingly sad, the story of the residents of Beatrice, Missouri, and all their glorious, messy secrets and dreams is a winner from the first page. Alex George has created that rare and beautiful thing – a novel I finished and immediately wanted to start again.”

— Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling author of The Weird Sisters

“Richly drawn, tragic, yet laced with humor—A Good American is a remarkable, multigenerational story of a German immigrant family struggling to find roots as dreams collide with honor and secrets lead to heartache.”

— Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

“What does it mean to be a good citizen? A good member of a family? In A Good American, George considers both questions with humor, compassion, and grace. A beautifully written novel, laced with history and music.”

– Emily St. John Mandel, author of Last Night in Montreal and The Singer’s Gun

“Alex George’s novel traces the journey of a German emigrant couple who end up in Missouri almost by accident, opening into a tale of three generations that is at once funny and sad and spectacularly real. A must read.”

– Speer Morgan, editor of The Missouri Review

A Good American is a novel to be savored. It’s brave, tender, and funny. As George promises in the opening line of this multigenerational story, ‘Always, there was music’.”

– Rebecca Rasmussen, author of The Bird Sisters

“Alex George’s A Good American is good, old-fashioned storytelling and his characters, both recognizable and startlingly fresh each time, linger in the mind and heart like the strains of a treasured melody. By turns funny and heartbreaking, A Good American lifts the reader from the first sentence and carries her all the way to the powerful end with the swiftness and confidence of the big muddy river running through the little town of Beatrice, Missouri. It was truly a joy to read.”

– Lise Saffran, author of Juno’s Daughters: A Novel


“lovely moments of humor and pathos that show real promise”

– Kirkus Reviews

“a sentimental, lively, and sad family saga… George, a British lawyer who has practiced law in London, Paris, and Columbia, Mo., where he now lives, evokes smalltown life lovingly, sometimes disturbingly, and examines the ties of family, the complications of home, and the moments of love and happiness that arrive no matter what.”

Publishers Weekly

“One of the joys of this story is George’s ability to evoke the power of music from the era, ranging from Barbershop quartets to the sweet sounds of the cornet and piano. This was the rare book that made me laugh and cry.”

– The Book Case

“George has created an expansive yet intimate family saga in which he adroitly explores aspects of identity, loyalty, chance, and determination that define the immigrant experience.”

– Booklist

“This memorable and well-written exploration of one family’s search for acceptance in America should strongly appeal to readers who enjoy family sagas and historical fiction.”

– Library Journal