Oh well crap. I thought this was going to be something I could chalk up to non-fiction. It started out historical enough, what with FDR in office, yes, and rumblings of a second world war over in Europe, ok yes, and Charles Lindbergh flying solo across the Atlantic and becoming an American hero and then running for president and beating FDR in a landslide and what? No. An American historian I may not be, but Charles Lindbergh was never President of the United States.
But if he had been?
Roth presents a fairly terrifying alternate history. Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt in his bid for a third term, and steps in to rescue the States from the war creeping its way into Europe. American Jews see this as a terribly insensitive move, given what is happening in Germany and the sheer, obvious rightness of jumping in on that fight, and American non-Jews take it as an excuse to practice the anti-Semitism lurking in their deep, dark hearts. Events slowly escalate, beginning with the subtle brainwashing of Jewish children, followed by ‘relocations’ of Jewish families, ostensibly for their own good but really to break their solidarity, and in a terribly short amount of time, riots have broken out and assassinations are being committed left, right, and center.
Alright, scary business. And if it had been real, legitimate history, I would have given it a much higher rating, because you’re constrained by fact in a way that you aren’t constrained (or shouldn’t be) by fiction. Problem is, Roth’s book reads like fact. In that it’s boring-ish. I mean, I’m ok being a little bored if I’m actually learning something in the process.
But I’m not.
But I think I am, because I keep forgetting that this isn’t really what happened, and I’m reading this book and I’m thinking, ‘Man, this is terrible. I can’t believe the States let it get this far, and good thing this and this event transpired to *spoiler* bring things back to the way they should be’ to the point where, when Roth starts going off about his nutty aunt’s theory that the Lindbergh baby wasn’t killed after all, but kidnapped by the Nazis, and used as leverage to convince Lindbergh to run for prez so that they could control his every move and keep America out of the war, I’m thinking ‘Yeah, actually, nutty aunt aside, this sounds pretty probable! I mean, we’d never know, right? No one would ever be able to prove or disprove a thing like this’ but then wait! I forgot. It’s all fake.
So back to my original point. I only expect non-fiction books to be passable, interesting-wise. Since this book was fiction, I wanted more. Jeez, how do I even explain? All sorts of exciting things happened, I guess. But maybe they happened too far apart, or at too much of a remove from the characters. I don’t know. I was just so indifferent. I’m sorry, fictional Roth family. I’m sure you’re all quite nice, and I’m sorry about all the bad things that didn’t happen to you. I just didn’t care.