In this debut memoir, a little girl in war-torn 1940s Germany grows up to become a successful American businesswoman.
Parrent was too young to remember the bombings that decimated her German city of Essen during World War II, as she was born in 1942. Her three older siblings, however, knew what the warning sound of sirens meant. One of her brothers was forced to join the Hitler Youth, and the family wasn’t told where he was—or if he was alive or dead. Parrent’s father—whose hair had turned white when he was a young soldier in World War I—refused to join the Nazi Party. Because of this, Nazis beat him so badly that he had to have a metal plate implanted in his head. By piecing together her family’s memories, the author paints a portrait of the terror of war that will have readers on the edges of their seats. Her own memories begin with extreme poverty, as her previously middle-class family was forced to scavenge the countryside for scraps of food. These bleak, deeply poignant scenes are the most gripping part of this short account; for example, as a tiny child, she was thrilled by a single pear a lady had given her, because having fruit at all was such a rarity. Parrent’s clear, incisive, and often vivid prose flows quickly: “The destruction of the bombings erased all shrubs and trees, and no flowers lived anywhere.” After her mother’s horrific death, she says that she faced abuse from her father—he once beat her so badly that she lost consciousness, she writes—before she married and moved to America. This strong woman’s subsequent story intertwines sorrow (the death of a son, divorce, and the deaths of two husbands) with joy (the birth of a daughter) as she tells of working to create a successful temp-agency business, which she opened in 1979. The conclusion, however, is disappointingly abrupt, listing her current activities, including community theater and flying lessons.
An autobiography whose portrait of wartime leaves a lasting impression.