Schroder (Gaige)

Schroder
Amity Gaige, 2013
Twelve, Inc.
288 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781455512133



Summary
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. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Amity Gaige's essays, articles, and stories have appeared in various publications, including the Yale Review, Los Angeles Times, O Magazine, The Literary Review, and in a 2009 collection of essays, Feed Me. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a McDowell Colony Fellowship, and a Baltic Writing Residency Fellowship, and is currently the Visiting Writer at Amherst College. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her famil. (From the publisher.)



Book Reviews
[The book's previoius] escapades are so unthreatening that it’s genuinely jolting when Schroder tilts toward a police chase and criminal prosecution. To her credit, Ms. Gaige has delicately mentioned the plot point that could potentially destroy Eric. But she hasn’t harped on it, so it resurfaces as a terrible surprise. And the reader is left to dissect a book that works as both character study and morality play, filled with questions that have no easy answers.
Janet Maslin - New York Times



Fiction is all about experimental selves, so it’s not hard to see what drew Amity Gaige to the title character of her third novel, Schroder.... The essence of the ersatz Rockefeller/Kennedy character is of course an epic, pathological narcissism, and this Gaige gets impressively right.... The novel’s climactic chapter is also its best conceived: the item that brings about Schroder’s downfall is perfect, both dramatic and mundane. The reader will realize that he or she has been given every detail necessary to see what was coming, yet didn’t, which is plot-making of the highest order.
Jonathan Dee - New York Times Book Review


The entire book is a testimony, written in prison, by a divorced dad to his ex-wife. Equal parts plea, apology and defense, this enthralling letter rises up from a fog of narcissism that will cloud your vision and put you under his spell…Gaige displays an unnerving insight into the grandiosity and fragility of the middle-aged male ego…With its psychological acuity, emotional complexity and topical subject matter, [Schroder] deserves all the success it can find.
Ron Charles - Washington Post

On occasion...a novel will provoke a host of tangled and disconcertingly conflicted reactions—revulsion and affection; blame and understanding; a connection that goes beyond surface sympathy to a deeper, and possibly unwanted, emotional recognition. These were among the things I experienced while reading Amity Gaige's astoundingly good novel Schroder.
Wall Street Journal


Brilliantly written....What could be a hackneyed novelistic trope--the confessional letter--is completely transformed in Gaige's sure and insightful hands....Schroder is a haunting look at the extreme desire for love and family, and how the mind can justify that need to possess what it cannot have. Almost, just almost, Schroder has us rooting for him.
Cleveland Plain Dealer


(Four stars.) Like Nabokov's Humbert Humbert, Schroder is charming and deceptive, likable and flawed, a conman who has a clever way with words. Schroder's tale is deeply engaging, and Gaige's writing is surprising and original, but the real pull of this magnetic novel is the moral ambiguity the reader feels.
People


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 entree 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
Publishers Weekly


Gaige creates a fascinating and complex character in Erik, as he moves from the eccentric and slightly irresponsible father to a desperate man at the end of his rope...[an] expert exploration of the immigrant experience, alienation, and the unbreakable bond between parent and child.
Booklist



Discussion Questions
1. Have you ever told a lie that grew beyond your control? What did you decide to do when the lie became more than you could handle?

2. Schroder is written as a confessional letter from Eric to his wife, Laura. Have you ever written a confession? About what and to whom?

3. In the novel, Eric tells his first lie when he is five years old. Do you remember your first lie or a time when you witnessed a young child lie? Why do you think you—or the child you witnessed—told this lie?

4. If you could change something about your family history, what would it be?

5. Which famous family might you pretend to be part of? Why?

6. Eric and Laura’s marriage began with a lie about Eric’s identity. How much of ourselves do we keep from our loved ones? Can omissions ultimately doom a relationship? Or is there room for secrets between spouses and in families?

7. Meadow is often the only voice of reason in the novel. What about a child’s mind allows Meadow to trust her father, but to be honest with him at the same time?

8. Were you ever worried for Meadow’s safety? If not, why not?

9. How does Eric’s immigrant status shape the way he sees the world—and the specific parts of his world, such as Laura, Meadow, and Albany?

10. Do you think Eric is mentally ill or just a confused man who doesn’t want to lose his daughter? How far would you go to hold on to someone you love?

11. Can someone who has made mistakes or done bad things in one part of their life still be a good parent?

12. Are you able to forgive the flaws in your own parents? Do you think Meadow will be able to?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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