Thursday, February 7, 2013

"This is a book you'll remember forever," says Lisa C.

A lyrical and deeply affecting novel recounting the seven days a father spends on the road with his daughter after kidnapping her during a parental visit.

Attending a New England summer camp, young Eric Schroder-a first-generation East German immigrant-adopts the last name Kennedy to more easily fit in, a fateful white lie that will set him on an improbable and ultimately tragic course.

Schroder relates the story of Eric's urgent escape years later to Lake Champlain, Vermont, with his six-year-old daughter, Meadow, in an attempt to outrun the authorities amid a heated custody battle with his wife, who will soon discover that her husband is not who he says he is. From a correctional facility, Eric surveys the course of his life to understand-and maybe even explain-his behavior: the painful separation from his mother in childhood; a harrowing escape to America with his taciturn father; a romance that withered under a shadow of lies; and his proudest moments and greatest regrets as a flawed but loving father.

Alternately lovesick and ecstatic, Amity Gaige's deftly imagined novel offers a profound meditation on history and fatherhood, and the many identities we take on in our lives--those we are born with and those we construct for ourselves.

Lisa C says:
"I read this book in a day. I really enjoy Amity Gaige's writing style and loved The Folded World; so I was anxious to read Schroder. It is a beautifully written letter/confession by a father who is going through a divorce and custody battle for his daughter. But it is also about identity.

As you find out in the first few pages, Erik Schroder chooses at an early age to shed his German heritage and become Eric Kennedy.

Of course his dual identity comes up when he decides to take his daughter on an unscheduled "trip" (his word, everyone else says kidnaps.) With authorities hot on his heels, he keeps going, clearly only thinking of himself. It would be easy to dislike a man who is a liar and a narcissist, and while I didn't agree with most of his actions, I found him intriguing. Among his rationalizations, there are father/daughter moments which are real, and you see that they do have loving bond.

I kept wanting to jump in and ask him - why are you being so selfish; how come people didn't discover your secret; I can't believe the world would be that gullible. Then, I remembered the story of the man who called himself Clark Rockefeller. Yes, this could happen; it did happen. Gaige writes from Eric's perspective beautifully. Her words were carefully chosen. She is a poet.  I couldn't put it down. It was a letter from a desperate man who lived a lie and wanted his ex-wife, daughter and life back. He had dreamed up his perfect American life, and  it all went horribly wrong. This is a book you'll remember forever. There are so many things to discuss. It is perfect for book clubs."

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