2016 Reading Challenge: I’ve NOT Given Up!
Earlier this year, I dove into the 2016 Reading Challenge with great gusto. I eagerly plowed through the different categories: Read a Book Published Before You Were Born, A Book That Has Been Banned At Some Point, etc. I was making such progress that I wondered if I was going too fast. I thought I’d better start pacing myself, otherwise I’d be done with the list in June or July and would be twiddling my bookless thumbs for the last half of the year.
Then– BAM!!!– I hit a wall. Part of it, was that I was trying to complete writing a novel of my own. Secondly, I realized that three of the four remaining categories were not so easy. But I got through number 9!
- Read a Book That You Abandoned at Some Point. This was tough one for me. I generally don’t abandon books. If I’m not enjoying a particular book, I may speed read it to get it over with, but once I open a book’s cover, I have made a commitment to finish it.
As it turned out, the solution was right under my nose all this time. Actually, it was under my bed. The book was literally covered with dust bunnies when I plucked it out.
I had picked up the book Schroder, by Amity Gaige (2013) in a bargain bin last holiday season to give as a hostess gift at a Christmas dinner. Not knowing the person I was giving it to, I could only cross my fingers that she would like the book.
Fast-forward a few months. I run into the same woman at my workplace. She thanked me for the book, then handed it back to me and said: “I really liked it. It’s an interesting story. You should read it.”
I was admittedly taken aback. I’d never had a gift returned to me before. But I sensed no sarcasm in this woman’s gesture. So I thanked her and accepted her unexpected regift of Schroder.
I attempted to start reading the books, but didn’t get very far. Apparently, I must have dropped the book behind my bed after dozing off while reading it. I unearthed it during a cleaning spree (along with several missing socks, eight colored colored pencils, three cat toys and sixty-five cents in change).
Shroder, the title character, is Erik Shroder, who, as a young boy, escapes embattled East Germany with his father in 1984. The two escape to the United States and settle in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Erik grows up feeling ashamed of his un-Americanness, trying to hide his German accent and fighting futilely to fit in. His life changes when he wins a scholarship to a summer camp, where he finally has a chance to reinvent himself. The kids there come to know him as “Eric Kennedy,” an identity that allows him to rewrite his own history. By summer’s end, he is a confidant, popular kid. Over the next three summers,Eric attends the same camp, still using the Kennedy alter ego. The facade should have ended with his graduation, but it doesn’t.
Instead, Erik Shroder enters adulthood as Eric Kennedy. Using his false ID, he goes to college, falls in love, marries a woman named Laura, and enjoys a lucrative career in real estate. Most importantly, he becomes the father to a very bright and precocious daughter named Meadow. When she is a toddler, Eric and Laura start to disagree about how she should be brought up. Laura is angry that Eric has taught their daughter to read at the age of three, while Erik disagrees with Laura’s decision to enroll Meadow in a private Catholic school. A contentious divorce ensues. Eric has very limited custody of their daughter. His frustration with his situation leads to him to kidnap Meadow from school one day.
The author takes us along on a harrowing, dangerous roadtrip, a desperate journey that Eric plans as he goes along. It’s hard to keep track of how many laws he breaks as he crosses state lines with his frightened child. In trying to “rescue “ his daughter, he puts her very life in danger. While it’s easy to sympathize with Eric during almost the first three quarters of the story, his desperation turns scary to the point of near-insanity. Hmm… maybe full-blown insanity?
Told in the form of a very long letter Eric writes to his estranged wife after his and Meadow’s disastrous odyssey, Shroder is a memorable novel that will make you think… and rethink.
It was also good enough to cause me to order one of Gaige’s earlier novels.
Now I only have three categories left to complete in the 2016 Reading Challenge: A Book I Own But Have Never Read (Ummm…???), A Book That Intimidates Me (there are three candidates for this) and A Book I’ve Already Read At Least Once (well, that’s too many to choose from!).