11 February 2018

Amity Gaige: Schroder (2013)

Jonathan Franzen is quoted on the front cover of Amity Gaige's Schroder as calling the main character 'appealing'. Perceptive and intelligent (although at times very stupid) he certainly is, but I certainly wouldn't use Franzen's adjective.

This is the story of a man separated from his wife and having limited access to his six-year-old daughter Meadow. One day he drives her around, they have a heap of fun, and he just continues driving because he can't bear to be separated from his beloved daughter. And then he finds rather crumby accommodation for them miles from anywhere, where the owner doesn't even have an internet connection.

It's when he goes to the nearest town, takes Meadow to a bar and sees himself on television that the net begins to close in on them and, in spite of help from April he's caught by the cops and ends up in a correctional facility.

Schroder is the name of the book, and that is the protagonist's original name: his earlier identity, when he spent the first five years of his life in East Germany, until the family moved to the States. Here, Schroder takes on another identity, becomes an American guy called Paul Kennedy (maybe some kinda very distant relation), who was born in Twelve Miles (an imaginary hamlet) in Cape Cod and marries an American girl until things go wrong and his Catholic wife doesn't feel that they have anything in common any more.

There are many digressions in the book, back to Kennedy's marriage, Schroder's life back in Germany, to his early days in the States, etc. And there are digressions in the form of footnotes, digressions within digressions, and in the end the reader is sorry that the huge digression in Schroder's life that was Kennedy – or other names he invented in his desperate attempt to avoid detection – has come to an end.

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