Father of Invention
In Amity Gaige's new novel, a man who has kidnapped his daughter makes a plea for understanding
by Amity Gaige
$21.99 List Price
Amity Gaige’s Schroder, her third novel, is a daring book. It tells a clean, suspenseful, economical story that is also a clever act of social commentary. It asks us to empathize with one of the most benighted figures in today’s marital hierarchy: the sketchy divorced dad, in this case the title character, who is at best an “erratic” father, a laid-off at-home parent unwilling to fret about things like BPA and the dangers of Mountain Dew, and more than willing to pick up a dead fox with his young daughter and study it. On the verge of divorce, this father wants—unbelievably, and to the frustration of his wife—joint custody of his daughter.
Unbelievably, because this deadbeat dad turns out to be potentially dangerous:
He kidnaps his eight-year-old daughter Meadow, having realized his wife might discover that he’s been lying about his identity. Eric Kennedy is a not a native-born son of Massachusetts, not a distant relation of those Kennedys, but an East German émigré by the name of Erik Schroder. Schroder is loosely inspired by a (much more melodramatic) true story: In 2008, a Boston resident calling himself Clark Rockefeller kidnapped his seven-year-old daughter after his wife divorced him and took sole custody, having realized that “Clark” had told her elaborate lies about his identity. During the kidnapping, police discovered that Clark wasn’t a Rockefeller at all but a German émigré who had possibly been involved in a murder.
As a case study of the unreliable narrator, Schroder is beautifully managed. The story is relatively simple, and like Lolita—a predecessor—it
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