• Susan Edsall

Schroder by Amity Gaige


Schroder by Amity Gaige
Schroder by Amity Gaige

Schroder

by Amity Gaige


Several weeks ago I posted an article by Amity Gaige about the research she did for her book Sea Wife. The article was so funny, informative, and beautifully written that I decided to buy all her books, which I did. Here's what happened.


I picked up Shroder first. It's her third book of four. And then I read the entire day—on the couch, in a chair, on the bed, back to the couch. At around 10 p.m., I was thirty pages from the ending and I simply had to stop. The book is magnificent. The writing is captivating, gorgeous, detailed, perfect. But the thing was, I stopped thirty pages from the ending because I wanted one more day to root for Eric, the flawed-but-so-terribly-human protagonist. I knew what was going to happen and I just didn't want to follow him there yet. I wanted a few more hours while I was sleeping to hope.


That's good writing.


So, I got up early the next morning, got my cup of coffee and curled up on the couch in my office to try to bear the ending. And I was surprised. It didn't end as I thought it would. I won't give it away, but suffice it to say, I couldn't stop crying. I'm talking real tears, real sobs, real bleating of “I'm so sad!”


As I said, good writing. So that book landed immediately on my Sacred Texts Shelf. I think it's a perfect book. So few are—and often the weakness is in the endings. Endings are hard. But she stuck this landing.


Here's the plot summary:

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. 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.


I'm sorry, but it's impossible for a summary of the book to do it justice.


Here are some excerpts to give you an idea of how she brings you into the story.


Describing the Berlin wall:


“The Wall was not just a wall but a wide swath of seared and swept land, upon which desperate crossers could be handily sited between crosshairs.”

“The Wall was not just a wall but a wide swath of seared and swept land, upon which desperate crossers could be handily sited between crosshairs.”

Here's how she describes Eric's first experience of flying in a commercial plane:

“Among all the surprises that were in store for me--because I was living in the sort of childhood where nobody explained things to children—was the mind-blowing sensation of liftoff, leaving Tegel Airport with Dad via airplane, 1979. Until the plane tilted back, as if in prostration to the sun, I did not with my whole mind understand that we were going to actually ascend. As the forward thrust pressed me back against my seat, I nearly passed out from confusion and a sudden sense of betrayal. The yolk of my heart came loose. I could feel this yolk at my center become unmoored in my chest, too slippery to catch, too delicate to clutch.”

Here's an example of the tiny details she uses to bring you into a very specific scene:

“The man looked surprised. Why wouldn't he let us go? Didn't I understand he was here to help? The clean-shaven skin over his ears jumped with his pulse.”

This is a terrific read, a heartbreaking love story, an account by a guilty man of how complicated the obvious can be when you take the time to lift the lid and see what roils beneath.


You can buy Schroder at your local bookstore. If they don't have it in stock, order it from them to support that community treasure. If, inexplicably, you have no local bookstore, and you don't have it in you to start one, you can order it online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble


About Susan Edsall


Writing is how I make my way through the thicket of what we’ve made of this planet we’re on. It takes me a long time and lots of words. Social media mystifies me. How do so many people have so much to say, so quickly, and with such resolute certainty? Read more about Susan >



“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.”

E.M. Forster