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. Read more...
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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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-10-22
- Reviewer: Staff
Gaige (The Folded World) revisits the fragility of family life in her newest, based broadly on the Clark Rockefeller child custody kidnapping case. The book—written as an apology (in both the Socratic and emotional sense) to the narrator’s ex-wife as he awaits trial—is quiet and deeply introspective. Erik Schroder was born in East Berlin, but escaped with his father to working-class Boston. Recreating himself as Eric Kennedy, raised in a fictional town by a patrician family, the narrator distances himself from his past to gain entrée into American aristocracy. But his marriage—based on lies—goes sour, and in the midst of the resultant unfavorable custody arrangement, Eric takes his six-year-old daughter, Meadow, on an unsanctioned road trip through New England, seizing the opportunity to reconnect with her, even as he realizes that this idyllic time is as illusory as his past. Although Eric is often unreliable, Gaige conjures a groundswell of sympathy for an otherwise repugnant character. Tender moments of observation, regret, and joy—all conveyed in unself-consciously lyrical prose—result in a radiant meditation on identity, memory, and familial love and loss. Agent: Wendy Weil, the Wendy Weil Agency. (Feb.)
An elegant tale of kidnapping
Schroder, the heartbreaking tale of a man who kidnaps his 6-year-old daughter, could be O My Darling author Amity Gaige’s breakout work. Starring a doggedly compelling lead character and Gaige’s signature smooth prose, this novel wows with its exacting, subtle grace.
Erik Schroder has not been known by that name since he was 14. An East German immigrant bullied in the tenements of 1980s Boston, he reinvented himself as “Eric Kennedy” in high school. But when his marriage falls apart and he loses his custody rights, the lie on which Eric’s life is built may prove his final undoing. Depressed and desperate for more time with his daughter, he proposes a road trip during a scheduled visit, and the unflappable Meadow is game. So begins a weeklong sally into rural New England that reveals the erratic parenting that made Eric’s ex nervous in the first place. But it also displays the special bond between him and the intelligent Meadow. As the authorities close in, Eric, cornered by his fraudulent identity, must face the fact that he could lose his beloved daughter forever—and, in the process, his entire constructed self.
Written as a confession to his wife, Schroder is Eric’s chronicle of his crimes and a poignant ode to his lost love. He utterly adored Laura—their breakup still stumps him—and Gaige’s elucidation of his bewildered pain is cutting. Meanwhile, he is confused by his own errors as a parent. Is he a bad father? What makes a good parent? His flaws, concurrent with his obvious love for Meadow, make us question our own judgments, decisions and delusions. A lost man, Eric Kennedy is falling apart, the ghosts of his past coming to claim him.
Gaige presents this weighty tale with enigmatic grace: This is a sad story, with multiple layers, carried on sentences light as air. She mixes warmth, lovely tenderness and wit with fear and loathing, nakedness and shame, moving her narrative swiftly to an end that hits like a punch in the gut.
Schroder, like its namesake, is an engrossing paradox. And Gaige is a talent who deserves attention.