Set in 1980s New Jersey, Kluge’s novel (Gone Tomorrow, 2008, etc.) follows a German immigrant and his travel writer son's attempt to forge an emotional connection as they tackle issues of home, family, identity and artistic integrity.
After receiving a letter from his father, Hans, George Griffin returns to his childhood home in New Jersey, where Hans tells him about his plan to sell the house and move back to Germany, his country of origin. The two quickly fall into a familiar pattern of bickering. George thinks his father is stubborn and old fashioned, and Hans has never understood why George anglicized Greifinger, his German surname. Hans also thinks George’s work doesn’t live up to his early potential. Not that George disagrees: His travel writing is hacky at best, full of cliché and groaningly purple prose, and he knows it. On the other hand, it pays for trips around the world, and for a pricy apartment in Manhattan with a view of Central Park. Hans, who has lived in New Jersey for decades, came to New York in the '20s and spent years in one of the city’s vibrant German neighborhoods. The Manhattan—and later on, New Jersey—that Hans remembers was very different from what George knows, full of beer and sausages and the German language, and time spent with Hans’s more sociable brother Heinz. Meanwhile, back in the New Jersey of the '80s, George runs into some friends from high school at a diner. He reconnects with his old acquaintances, including the object of an intense high-school crush, and wonders whether he should go to his upcoming high-school reunion after all. But when Hans receives an intriguing postcard, the two set off on a car ride to Florida, giving them plenty of time to figure each other out. Kluge shifts perspective between George and Hans, lending each character a distinct, equally compelling voice. He sketches a difficult but ultimately loving father/son relationship with a rare sincerity and welcome humor.
Heartfelt, funny and poignant.