The complete reviews by Kirkus Reviews, Reader Views and The US Review of Books appear below. To go to the review on the reviewer’s website, click on the reviewer’s name.
“Fritsch (Elizabeth Daleiden on Trial, 2016, etc.) unfurls a tortured familial epic set in an Illinois farming community.
“Henry, the titular grandfather and patriarch of the Reinhart family, has a long, infamous history in the rural farming community where his father settled in the previous century. Henry’s brazen, lifelong ambition to take over every farm on the section of land where he was born, and to “never again have to share a fence with another human being,” makes members of the community—and his own family—suspect him of many crimes, including the murder of his own brother. His steadfast refusal to attend the local church and his continued acquisition of his neighbors’ farms by various, sometimes-dubious means doesn’t help his case. By the time he comes to care for his only grandson, Kurt Reinhart, in one of the houses on his land in 1947, he and his clan are seen as pariahs. Kurt lives and works alongside his stubborn but surprisingly open-minded grandfather; later, he investigates the violent rumors about his birthright while also coming to terms with his own homosexuality and the sexual repression in his family. Fritsch will still maintain readers’ interest with his sheer storytelling verve, as he brings vivid specificity to his fully imagined world. His folksy, easygoing style belies the painful secrets and violence at the heart of the novel and renders the bloodstained and tragic narrative much lighter and easier to read than it has any right to be. However, the ambitious tale occasionally gets muddled amid the minutiae of Reinhart family’s history and an exhausting cavalcade of thinly drawn secondary characters. The dialogue is also often tin-eared and exposition-heavy, and none of the characters speaks in a way that’s dissimilar to the narrator.
“A confident, if occasionally exhausting, familial and historical epic, coupled with a tender bildungsroman.”
Reader Views, review by Paige Lovitt:
I have been a fan of Ron Fritsch’s work for some time now, so I jumped at the opportunity to read his latest novel, His Grandfather’s House.
The Reinhart family is not too well liked in their little town of Kensington. It is believed, the patriarch, Henry Reinhart, is willing to stop at nothing, including murder to hang on to the family farm. He and his wife Bertha stepped in to raise their grandson Kurt after he is abandoned by his parents when he was four years old. Kurt shares his grandfather’s love for the farm, but as he grows up, he seeks answers to the claims of the town folk. Henry seems to be very upfront with his grandson about answering his questions, but he is also on a quest to gain control of some farms that adjoin his land, and resorts to some questionable tactics to acquire these parcels. Towards the end of high school, Kurt falls in love, which at the end of the fifties and the early sixties, this kind of love is still forbidden. Kurt has much to work through and overcome. Will he prevail in the end?
His Grandfather’s House is a great story about life on a farm. The author portrays vivid authentic details about the ups and downs of farm life. The characters are well-developed and genuine. The patriarch in the family had very adept business skills, which most of the people around him were lacking. The author does a great job of developing him as a shrewd business man that always got what he wanted, even if it took time. The protagonist Kurt has a good soul and he has to develop a thick skin so as not to be affected by the way others view his family. Kurt is easy to like and has a strong work ethic for one so young.
This was a really difficult time to be a gay young man. Kurt got to see and learn about others who didn’t handle living with being gay so well. He knows he doesn’t want to live his life as a lie, but initially, it was not safe for him to be open about it. This almost causes him to lose the man who is meant to be the love of his life. The twists and turns in this story make it incredibly interesting.
His Grandfather’s House by Ron Fritsch is a captivating read. Once again, the author has written an excellent, complex novel that readers are sure to enjoy. Highly recommended reading!
The US Review of Books, review by Carol Anderson:
“Without becoming pillars of salt, they felt the comfort of the other man’s arms.”
In a novel that touts itself as a “coming-of-age” story, this book does indeed meet that description. Set in the early 1900s through 1961, it is a family story revolving around Kurt and his grandfather, Henry. It explores the history of Henry’s family including the death of his brother, Conrad. The book also explores the loss of Kurt’s parents and his growth into an 18-year-old man who is much like his grandfather. As they continue to buy neighbors’ farm properties, they are accused of stealing and various other sins. The local minister continues to preach about this sinful family—to which Henry and Kurt pay no heed. Kurt talks with neighbors to try to learn more about Henry and what type of man he is. While exploring other life events such as WWI and WWII, the Depression, and Kurt’s school years, the story always circles back to farm and family, both those living and deceased. The ending is both traumatic and sweet.
The book begins with two pages of characters to refer to—which is especially needed for the beginning chapters which cover a lot of history. After these first few chapters, it becomes easier to read and is a story that needs to be examined. It covers numerous issues: drowning, suicide, abandonment, homosexuality, deaths in the wars, murder, arson, forgery, politics, sinful behavior—and always gossip about these things. But the relationship between grandfather and grandson is a beautiful one. The various characters are well-developed, giving the reader a taste of farm life, family, and friends, both the good and the bad. For those who have grown up on a farm or who are farmers, it is an accurate depiction of the stressors and blessings of farm life; for others, it is an interesting family story.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review