Reading Groups

If you would like to discuss A GOOD AMERICAN at your book club, then I hope this page will provide you with some fun things to make your event interesting.


Below you’ll find some questions about the book that I hope will prompt some spirited discussion.  There’s also a link to a playlist of some of the music in the novel, should you need a soundtrack to get you in the mood.  And – possibly best of all – you’ll find a couple of killer recipes inspired by Lomax’s contribution to Missouri cuisine.  These have been provided by my good friend and fellow Penguin author, Erika Marks, whose wonderful novel, Little Gale Gumbo, is a delightful story (and highly recommended) set in New Orleans and Maine.  Erika’s husband is a New Orleans native and so these are authentic Big Easy recipes which you will love.  Just to help the event go smoothly, you’ll also find a couple of cocktails suggestions, should you need them.  Hurricanes and Sazeracs.  They’re fun to say – even more fun to drink!  Enjoy, and thank you Erika.


Also, I am always willing to drop in on your book club and visit with readers via Skype!  If you would like to ask me questions directly during your book club meeting, please send me an email to, and let’s see if we can arrange a time that works.


Discussion Questions


  • Frederick is an uncritical lover of America, but Jette is not. What is it that Frederick loves most about America? What is it that Jette has reservations about? In what ways do you agree or disagree with each of them? Why does Frederick go off to war? Do you think it is selfish of him? Is he deserting his family?


  • One of the central paradoxes of the immigrant experience that the novel dramatizes is the desire to remain connected to the old country and yet become fully American. Do you think assimilation happens more quickly and fully in the United States than elsewhere? Do you think it is happening as rapidly with today’s immigrants as it did generations ago?


  • What does being a good American mean to you? Do you think Frederick ultimately is one?


  • Why does Jette make her protest when the war ends? Is it simply a way of mourning Frederick’s death?


  • Some of the citizens of Beatrice are offended by Jette’s antiwar protest. Are there limits to the principle of freedom of speech, and if so, where do those limits lie? Does Jette’s protest cross those limits?


  • Is Joseph’s quarrel with the Reverend Kellerman justified? Why do some people turn toward religion after times of crises, while others turn away?


  • William Henry Harris and Lomax are the only two African-American characters in the book, and both are treated fairly horribly by everyone other than the Meisenheimer family. Would you describe Beatrice as a racist town? Is it simply a product of its time?


  • The evolution of Beatrice in a way mirrors the nation’s transformation during the twentieth century. What did American towns and people gain, and lose, with modernization?


  • Are there parallels between the gradual metamorphosis of the restaurant and the family’s integration into American society?


  • Why does James stay in Beatrice? Do you think he really has a choice?


  • Some secrets are revealed at the end of the novel. Did you see these twists in the story coming? Does every family have secrets?


  • Why does Rosa never reveal to James their relationship?


  • The author is an Englishman who now lives in the United States. How might the book be different if it were written by an American?


  • There are many different kinds of music in the novel. Which was your favorite, and why?



There is a lot of music in A Good American – everything from opera to ragtime to bluegrass and barbershop singing.  To make your event more fun – or to accompany you while you read the book – I’ve put together a playlist of music featured in the novel, which you can stream for free.  Simply go to and follow the instructions.




(Please note this recipe uses just sausage, but ham, chicken and/or shrimp can be added as well. Ham and chicken should be pre-cooked and cut into pieces and browned with sausage. If adding shrimp, use 1 lb. peeled and uncooked shrimp and add them to the mixture 10 minutes before being done to avoid overcooking the shrimp.)

  • 1 tsp Canola oil
  • 1 lb. Andouille (or any kind of smoked sausage that is available), sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 14 oz. can of seasoned diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbs dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs Creole seasoning
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 oz tomato paste
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice, uncooked


In cast iron pot, add oil and sausage. Brown on medium heat and remove from pot. Set sausage aside.

In same pot, sauté bell pepper, onion and celery until translucent.

Stir in can of diced tomatoes and chicken stock.

Return sausage to pot and add garlic, thyme, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, Creole seasoning, black pepper and tomato paste. Cover and bring to boil.

Stir in rice, cover again and lower to simmer. Gently stir occasionally until rice is cooked.

# # # #


  • 1 1b. uncooked shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 Tbs Cajun seasoning
  • ¼ cup Canola oil
  • 1 heaping cup of flour
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups stock—chicken or fish
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 14 oz. can of seasoned diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ Tbs dried thyme
  • ½ Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 Tbs. butter
  • Green onions, chopped
  • Long-grain white rice, cooked

In medium bowl, toss and coat shrimp with Cajun seasoning. Set aside.

In large skillet, make roux by combining flour and oil and stirring constantly over medium heat. When peanut butter color is achieved, stir in pepper, onion and celery mixture (known in New Orleans cooking as “The Holy Trinity”), still stirring constantly to avoid burning the roux. Continue to sauté on medium heat until the mixture is translucent.

Add stock. Stir until roux mixture is incorporated and bring to a boil.

Lower heat. Add garlic, diced tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add shrimp. Cook for 10 more minutes until shrimp are cooked then stir in butter.

Serve over rice and garnish with sliced green onions.

(Note: Serve with Tabasco sauce on the side so that guests can add to their tastes.)




Serves one.

  • 1 ½ oz. light rum
  • 1 ½ oz. dark rum
  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. triple sec
  • Orange juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Grapefruit juice

Fill 16 oz. glass ¾ full with ice. Add alcohols then add equal parts of the juices until glass is full and stir.

# # # #


Serves one.

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 4 dashes of bitters
  • 1 tsp. Herbsaint
  • 3 oz. rye whiskey
  • Lemon peel

Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice. Set aside.

In second old-fashioned glass, muddle sugar cube with bitters until sugar is dissolved. Add whiskey.

Empty ice from first glass and coat inside of glass with Herbsaint, throwing out remaining liquid.

Add mixture to chilled, coated glass and garnish with lemon peel.


Comments 2

  1. Pingback: The Debutante Ball » Blog Archive » News Flash: January 22, 2012

  2. Pingback: A Good American by Alex George | Pinal County Reads

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