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Schroder by Amity Gaige

November 15, 2013

schroder

When Eric Kennedy’s estranged wife threatens to take away his right to visit their 6-year-old daughter, Meadow, he does something desperate: he kidnaps Meadow and skips town. Complicating the matter is the fact that Eric has been lying about his identity since he was a kid. He name actually isn’t Eric Kennedy. It’s Erik Schroder, and he is an illegal alien who escaped from East Germany and fled to the U.S. when he was nine.

The novel has drawn comparisons to Lolita for the subject matter as well as the confessional POV. And though the writing is often fantastic with some great scenes, heavy with smart symbolism—my favorite scene is when Erik is flying a kite with Meadow for the benefit of an divorce mediator and manages to land the kite in a tree—this isn’t Lolita. For one, it’s much more innocent. Schroder is eccentric, he is a liar, but his pure love for his daughter makes him a likable, empathetic character.

My biggest criticism of Schroder is that although the escape from Germany storyline is critical to the plot, and although Erik’s relationship to his father rounds out the theme of how the identities of children are shaped by their parents, those elements of the novel are less impactful and feel somewhat disconnected from the central relationship between Erik and Meadow. It would have been a simpler story, but I would have preferred if Gaige had focused on them and left the false identity storyline out. But that may just be the bias of a father with a young daughter. I can relate much more to Erik the father than Erik the criminal.

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