"An exhaustive, meticulously detailed memoir of a passionate American that is sure to challenge and delight many readers."– Kirkus Reviews
The sweeping memoirs of a Danzig immigrant.
Luehning reflects fondly at a supremely brimful life beginning with his birth in 1940 in the northern town of Zoppot in the Free City of Danzig, mere months after the start of World War II. His father, a conductor and classical pianist–turned-soldier, disappeared during wartime, leaving Luehning’s mother to single-handedly raise him and his younger sister, Heike. They eventually relocated to Hoechst, near Frankfurt, Germany, and then immigrated via military troop ship to Brooklyn, New York, in 1947. The author’s prose shines best when regaling us with stories of his grade school days, family trips to Times Square and the family pizza shop. He also tells of various rollicking teenage adventures at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, where he later graduated as a distinguished maritime engineer. Those years were a crucial watershed in his life, encouraging him to “identify my ambition in cold logic and to work my ass off to succeed.” The remainder of the memoir is comprised of smoothly told anecdotes on a series of ships, a stiff reunion with his father, a marriage and divorce, a struggle with sobriety and a stint in graduate school. Luehning later became an executive chef and owned and operated several gourmet restaurants for nearly a decade. His journey concludes with his mother’s tragic death and his retirement in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Photographs of the author’s family and of the ships on which he sailed provide vibrant visual references along the way. Running parallel to his own memories are those of his mother, “Mutti,” penned in 1988. They independently form a dramatic, candid chronicle worthy of its own stand-alone memoir, supplementing the emotional depth of the family legacy while offering an added perspective on the era. Luehning, now 74, has clearly led an extraordinary life, and reading his memoir is like spending the weekend with a friendly, war-veteran anecdotalist. This tome not only entertains, but also reflects the fortitude and perseverance needed to survive life’s storm fronts.
An exhaustive, meticulously detailed memoir of a passionate American that is sure to challenge and delight many readers.