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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

A Slow-Motion Car Crash

Schroder - Amity Gaige

As a boy, Erik Schroder escaped with his father from East Berlin, eventually making his way to the USA where he reinvented himself as Erik Kennedy, an enthusiastic, enterprising all-American boy. It was an identity that worked well for a number of years but the deception at its heart left him with a secret vulnerability that marriage and fatherhood gradually exposes. When he finds himself on the losing side of a custody battle, he kidnaps his six year old daughter and drives off aimlessly on an increasingly problematic road trip.


The narrative takes the form of a long letter from Schoder to his wife, written in his jail cell at the end of the ill-fated road trip but it's clear from very early on that not only is he an unreliable narrator, he's a man suffering from a kind of  dissociation bordering on a state of fugue.


Schroder is likeable and in many ways he is the victim of circumstances but his inability to face up to the truth of his own experience renders him helpless in the face of his own unravelling.


A poignant exploration of identity and illusion, commitment and rootlessness, reading Schroder is like watching a car crash in slow motion, knowing there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.