The truth is rarely pure and never simple* – Schroder by Amity Gaige

July 13, 2014 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment

“Schroder” by Amity Gaige, Published in 2013

I was truly surprised by this novel.  It was well done, compelling and disturbing, in a good way.  I have never heard of Amity Gaige before but she is a happy discovery.

schroder_165x250Eric Schroder’s story doesn’t end well. You know this from the beginning of the novel which takes the form of a letter Eric is writing to his soon to be ex-wife – a letter that his lawyer suggested he write.  Eric is writing from the correctional facility where he is serving time and the letter opens with this statement “[w]hat follows is a record of where Meadow and I have been since our disappearance.”  This type of writing technique can make a novel less interesting sometimes, but here Gaige’s writing and storytelling makes the fact that the reader knows where the story is headed all the more intriguing.

Eric and his father immigrated from Germany to the U.S. in the 70s. Tired of being the strange, immigrant outsider, when Eric signs up for summer camp in his early teens, he changes his last name from Schroder to Kennedy (how very American).  And thus begins Eric’s life of recreating himself.  When he goes to college he continues to use the name Kennedy, and by then the lie, the recreation, has gone too far and he can’t go back.  So when he meets and marries Laura they become the Kennedy family.  Eric fabricates a beautiful, picture-perfect childhood. He becomes the perfect husband and then the perfect father to their daughter Meadow.  But Eric is our narrator and Laura eventually asks for a separation so it would seem what Eric considers perfect is not necessarily a reliable account – it is a another recreation of reality.

When the couple separates there is a custody agreement for the care of Meadow and Eric doesn’t like it.  He believes that he is an amazing father who should be able to spend more than an occasional weekend with his daughter. Eventually this leads to him skipping town with Meadow and disappearing until the authorities finally catch up with him, return Meadow to her mother, and place Eric under arrest.

This novel has been compared to “Lolita” in multiple reviews.  This worried me a bit, but to clarify Eric does not have any kind of sexual relationship with his daughter.  He instead has a twisted view of his abilities as a father, as a husband and just generally as a man.   Getting at the truth is hard for the reader because Eric is the storyteller.  But getting at the truth is also hard for Eric, so while the reader is struggling with what is real so is Eric.  It makes the relationship between storyteller and audience really interesting.

Perhaps even more interesting, I found myself feeling sympathy for Eric. Though he had numerous shortcomings a lot of what he did was understandable, even if not acceptable.   Who hasn’t wanted to recreate themselves? And we all have had those moments where something that we have created, a joke, a lie, a story gets out of control and suddenly has gone too far.   Rather than wish for Eric’s demise, you wish he were different, wiser, just a little more together -because as the reader you can see that this is not the case of someone who is intentionally deception or cruel or sinister.  But instead it is someone who just can’t get it right, who just can’t make a successful life for himself, who just can’t cope with reality.  And if we are honest, we have all been there.

*quote from Oscar Wilde

Other reviews to check out: 

From Lizzy’s Literary Life

From Literary Hour  

From Linus’s Blanket 

 

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Entry filed under: July 2014 reads. Tags: , , .

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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