|FRIEDA FRITZ STIEHL, the daughter of German immigrants, grew up on a dairy farm in Berks County, Pennsylvania. After the deaths of her parents, she began to realize how little she knew about them and had many questions one doesn’t think to ask until it’s too late. In search of answers, she visited older family members scattered throughout the U.S. and Germany, knowing that any information she might hope to find existed in one and only one place—the aging brains of her aunts and uncles, and that after they passed away, any living memories of the past would be gone forever.
The author lived and studied in Germany for many years. Her knowledge of German history and familiarity with German culture enabled her to delve deeply into her ancestral past and also to describe the economic conditions that drove both parents to seek a better life elsewhere, far away from their native land. In her research, she unearths “dark” secrets and retells such family lore stories as a “millionaire” grandfather who lost it all overnight and a great-grandmother descended from royalty. There are plenty of real-life stories as well: A boy at the mercy of a tyrant father; a young immigrant girl lured onto an isolated farm; a child’s tragic drowning. All bits and pieces of a larger narrative—the lives of her immigrant parents, the struggles they had to endure, the eventual achievement of their dream, and the price they had to pay for it. (314pp. color illus. hardcover Masthof Press, 2016)