Herbert Reinecker was a member of the Hitler Youth, later becoming a German war correspondent propagandist—facts mentioned almost in passing by the author since, by the early 1950s, her father had become a celebrity author in Germany and, for Reinecker, a brilliant, distant star. His near-constant absence from the family, punctuated by infrequent three- or four-day visits, became the defining anguish of her life. There was always a reason—he was working on a radio play, he had to be at “the studio,” he couldn’t find proper housing for the family in whatever city he was in, etc. As her father’s fame and wealth increased, so did his emotional and physical distance from his family. Eventually, the author began to understand that his absences had more to do with the various other women in his life than with the demands of his work. While she basked in the reflected light of being his daughter, she spent most of her time trying to gain his attention and love, often through rebellious behavior that resulted in her being expelled from a variety of prestigious boarding schools. In 1965, she married an American GI, and they moved to Minnesota the following year. What she could not escape, however, were her feelings of inadequacy. The narrative centers on, and is especially vivid in re-creating, the longing of a young girl for a normal family as she struggles to find a sense of self-worth and purpose. Readers are likely to be less forgiving than Reinecker of her egotistical, philandering father, who seemed to feel that his responsibilities were fulfilled by providing financial support, or the mother who berated and spanked her with a wooden spoon at minor provocations. But, as this engrossing, memorable memoir shows, Reinecker’s journey to discover who and what led her to be the person she is today has allowed her to make peace with her past.
Absorbing with a tinge of sadness.