On the Other Side of the Ocean:
Memories of a Childhood
by Ruth Elisabeth Schoch Trafford Publishing

"Thinking back now, she aches for Mamie, how her hopes and dreams had been broken years ago when she began sharing her life with a weak, lonely man she thought she could save from himself."

On the surface, Beth's childhood in a multigenerational household in a quaint village in Switzerland sounds idyllic. Her adoring maternal grandparents live downstairs, while she and her parents, two brothers, and sister reside upstairs in a house surrounded by flower gardens, pets, and backyard chickens—and beautiful mountains.

But Papie, her adoring but weak father, spends too many evenings with his friends of the "round table" at the local tavern, and his wife and children never know whether he will return home complacent or in a rage. The constant uncertainty and stress brought on by his alcoholism and associated debts, coupled with her grandparents' disapproval, create a stressful household. Mamie, their mother, possesses a deep faith and protects her children as much as she can, while their grandparents provide an added level of security and affection when the situation upstairs becomes unbearable.

While Schoch skillfully explores the impact of an addicted, troubled parent on a child, her story is neither bleak nor dark. Her youth in pre- and post-World War II Switzerland is mostly happy, filled with flowers, food, and holiday traditions. Mainly, though, Schoch's anecdotes concerning family, friends, village, and school make her memoir fascinating and often hilarious. She never resorts to whitewashing the facts, occasionally portraying herself in a negative light as viewed from her adult perspective.

Short chapters, ranging from one to several pages, serve as vignettes. Evocative descriptions draw the reader into mid-century Swiss village life, and Schoch carries her story forward to the present, revealing the fates of her family members. Well-written, Schoch's memoir is touching—enjoyable despite the occasional underlying pain and desperation.

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