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Books

Review: Schroder by Amity Gaige

On March 24, 2013

By Sophia Whitfield

This book comes with a plethora of testimonials from literary greats on the front and back cover, including Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Egan. It is Gaige’s third novel and one based on an engaging and heartbreaking central theme.

Erik Schroder is a desperate father. His estranged wife has granted him only minimal visitations rights to Meadow, their six-year-old daughter. Meadow’s loving ‘Pop Pop’ dutifully drops her off on alternate weekends, although he shares none of his granddaughter’s love for Schroder. With life quickly losing all its meaning Schroder acts to steal little Meadow away so he can have some much desired quality time with her.

Gaige based the premise for her book on a case that broke in 2008 where Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter pretended to be a Rockefeller. Like Schroder he was a German immigrant and also involved in the parental kidnapping of his daughter. Gerhartsreiter is said to have stated that the time he spent with his daughter was the happiest time of his life.

Similarly Schroder, struggling to assimilate into society, changes his name to Kennedy. He does not correct curious inquirers when they assume that he is related to the famous Kennedy family. What could be more American than the Kennedy family? His wife has always known him as a Kennedy and is indeed Laura Kennedy.

It is not until Schroder takes Meadow and the police find his passport among his belongings that his wife realises their life has been a fraud.

The book is written as a letter. Under the advisement of his lawyer Schroder writes to Laura, his estranged wife, informing her of all the places he and Meadow visited on that fateful week when he took his daughter away from her mother. It is in essence an apology to his wife, written from the correctional facility where he now resides.

The terrible dichotomy between loving father and mania is revealed as Gaige tells Schroder’s story in his own words. It is an attempt to explain his behaviour to his wife and to understand it himself.

Although Gaige has written two previous books this is the one that has catapulted her into the realms of literary star. Schroder is a deeply affecting novel. The lyrical beauty of Gaige’s prose renders a tragic tale of regret into a heartbreaking story of familial love.

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