Young Reda Reynolds lived with her parents and little sister on the Upper West Side of Manhattan shortly after Hitler invaded Poland. Her parents and extended family showered the children with love. That idyllic childhood ended abruptly when Reynolds’s father was drafted in 1944. In January of 1945, they received the news he was killed during the Battle of the Bulge.
Reynolds’s life changed dramatically. Her mother, Maxine, became distant and withdrawn. When Maxine remarried in April 1947, she seemed driven to erase all memories of her former husband and his family. In Collateral Damage, Reynolds shares the story of life as an orphan, a term the US government used to refer to those who lost a father to war even though many of these children’s mothers were still living. Reynolds narrates the stressful life she lived with her mother and stepfather through her adolescence and early adulthood. She tells about seeking treatment for ongoing depression and anxiety and taking steps to reunite with her deceased father’s family.
In this memoir, Reynolds also discusses how, in her fifties, she sought to fill an emotional void by learning more about her father and his mission in World War II. She researched government documents and obtained a copy of her grandfather’s memoir, covering life in Germany from the enactment of the Nuremberg Laws, his imprisonment in Buchenwald, and his miraculous release from the concentration camp. It was the knowledge she needed to help her make sense of her past and present.