Chico resident Helga Ruge, born in Wiesbaden, Germany, is the author of the memoir "Flashbacks of a Diplomat's Wife" and a fictional story, "Wither the Promised Land." Now she turns to novelized autobiography in "More Truth Than Fiction: Growing Up in Europe Between the World Wars" ($11.95 in paperback from Clay & Marshall Publishing Company, available at local bookstores or by writing firstname.lastname@example.org). Her purpose, she says, is to "leave an account of my childhood for my family" but also "to share with readers everywhere what life was like in Europe during the early 1900s."
She notes that "the many events and experiences I write about are factual and, though their names are fictitious, the human beings in my story are very real. And because I find autobiography without dialogue dead and boring, I give voice to these people even though it's not possible to recall exact words spoken so many decades ago." The story chronicles the life of Peter Heimbach and his wife, Lisa, and their two daughters, Helen and Inga, from 1922 to 1938.
Living in Biebrich, a small town near the Rhine, the little family was not immune to the instability of post-war Germany. "Inflation was so rampant that every day brought new prices" and "many Germans were out of work and hungry." Peter spent "four years in an internment camp in Russia during the war" but returned, intact, and now had a job "selling pills for his company," a job which eventually would take him, and his family, to the Soviet Union, then Romania, and back to Germany.
Baby Helen (nicknamed "Helly"--for good reason, as it turns out!) is born in 1922 "just as the church bells rang in Christmas at six o'clock in the morning." Helen is forever wandering off, causing Lisa, especially, no end of grief. "Impulsiveness was the most natural thing in the world to Helly."
Ruge's apt descriptions of everyday life is intertwined with the growing threat of Communism (where Peter's co-worker in Russia is arrested for unfaithfulness to the revolution) and the unraveling of German democracy and the rise of the Nazis. The reader is drawn into the pulse of domestic life, squabbles and all, in a story that in the end is about love and grace.