A DIFFERENT WORLD: From Old Germany to New England: One Family's Story

Rudy Mutter, Author . Sunrise Group $21.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-9711249-0-5

Mutter's unadorned and thorough family history–cum–personal memoir begins with a frank admission: "I wanted to record... memories before I got too senile to remember them." Such forthrightness marks the rest of this volume, which traces the Mutter lineage through facts and "family lore." Beginning with a sketch of the anti-Kaiser rebel army days of Johann Georg Mutter (born in Rüsswihl, Germany, in 1823), the account advances through the author's maternal grandparents the Meyers (who also hailed from Germany) and several chapters devoted to Mutter's father, Rudolph Francis Mutter. The culmination is "Assorted True Stories"—tales of college pranks, ROTC jokes, Air Force life and office duties—from the life of the author (also named Rudolph Francis Mutter, who was born in Northampton, Mass., in 1928). Mutter's sources range from personal interviews and diaries to public documents, from a history of the 1939 World's Fair to the "baby book" his parents kept after his birth. Because families tend to be large, complicated entities, Mutter's task of relating stories and names isn't a simple one, but he includes a helpful list of names and many photos, as well as enough colorful anecdotes to keep readers amused even if they've temporarily forgotten where any particular individual perches on the family tree. Mutter presents extensive material from his father's 1942 Biography of Mr. Average American and, in addition to family memories (which include glimpses of son John Mutter, PW's executive editor for bookselling), offers a compelling portrait of life in a very different era. Though the subject might suggest an audience composed primarily of Mutters and their friends, this is a clear-eyed, fond telling of a classic American tale—of immigration, integration and achievement—with its characters convincingly rendered with "the good and the warts." (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
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