cover image A Call from Jersey

A Call from Jersey

P.F. Kluge, Overlook, $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-59020-361-3

German immigrant and widower Hans Greifinger and his travel-writer son, George Griffin, narrate Kluge's latest (after Gone Tomorrow), an absorbing if slightly restrained novel that's as much about the 20th-century American experience as it is about brothers, fathers, and sons. In straightforward prose peppered with German, Hans evokes 1920s New York as he and his ever-charming, ever-gambling brother, Heinz, emigrate from Germany and set up new lives. These are the book's strongest sections, as Hans marries and raises a family in New Jersey, while Heinz, burned by debts, returns to Germany just in time for the war. In the narrative present—1984—Hans seeks to discover what ever happened to the still-missing Heinz, who fought in the German army in WWII. Hanging on his findings are Hans's home—intended for George—and Hans's golden years, which he intends to pass on the Elbe. Though the chapters narrated by George don't have the high stakes of his father's journey or the strengths of Hans's voice, they still evoke the painful communion of father and son, and humorously chronicle George's attempts to escape loneliness. (Sept.)