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Synopses & Reviews
It is 1961. Khrushchev is hurling threats, a U.S. spy plane has been shot down over the Soviet Union, tensions are rising. Berlin has been cut off from the West: in a matter of weeks the Wall will be erected.
The United States and Americans abroad face dangers they had never imagined. James Carroll tells an unforgettable story that illuminates a key moment in history with the passions of those who lived it.
Three teenagers from an American school in West Germany travel to Berlin to join a May Day rally on the Communist side of the divided city. Propelled by naive ideals and in rebellion against preordained futures, Michael, Katharine, and Ulrich stumble into the center of an international incident. Ulrich has taken a flight bag belonging to his father — an intelligence officer — unaware of its contents, and now the three are in custody, arrested by the East German secret police.
Paul Montgomery, Michael's widower father, and Charlotte, Ulrich's elegant German-born mother, set off to rescue their sons. Paul and Charlotte struggle with personal secrets, growing desire, and the legacies of World War II — only to face the loss of their sons to the engulfing paranoia of the Cold War. It is a time of missed signals, cloaked motives, and panicked threats that echo tragically across borders and generations.
James Carroll, a moral voice for his generation, has again achieved what has become his trademark: revealing the drama of history as the sum of countless choices by fallible, fragile individuals. Secret Father is a classic story of the struggle for love and family in a time of intense danger.
"In many respects, Secret Father is a classic Cold War story, complete with spies, interrogations, a tragic European woman, and a canister of secret film. What gives the novel depth is its smudged moral divide between East and West....The Berlin that Carroll describes still smells of cinder and ash from the Allied bombings of World War II ? it is a defeated world where no absolute villains or heroes remain. American idealism does not always prove invincible, and characters with Communist leanings are not necessarily misguided." Jennie Rothenberg, Atlantic Monthly
"Carroll writes with rich, lyrical ease....His characters are richly drawn, and the pieces of his impeccably paced story fit together with the cool precision of a Mercedes-Benz. He plays the cards of his plot perfectly, each new element a revelation, leaving the reader hungrily turning the pages until the riveting story is told and the lesson is learned, that real love is indeed a harsh and dreadful thing." Publishers Weekly
"The taut drama of history, interlaced with the emotional sagas of these marvelously drawn figures, makes for a very satisfying narrative." Library Journal
"Carroll...makes excellent use of his firsthand knowledge of the territory, stumbling only slightly on the romances." Kirkus Reviews
Secret Father is a suspenseful drama of family and politics set in Cold War Berlin. Missed signals, cloaked motives, false postures, and panicked responses echo tragically across borders and generations when, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a father and son recount the tense events of nearly thirty years before. In 1961, just before the Wall rises, three teenagers from an American school in West Germany travel to the Communist side of the divided city to join a rally. Unknown to them, their parents have unfinished business reaching back to World War II which will pull the teens into the vortex of an international incident.
It is 1961. Khrushchev is hurling threats, a U.S. spy plane has been shot down over the Soviet Union, tensions are rising. Berlin has been cut off from the West: its only a matter of weeks until the Wall will be erected. The United States and Americans abroad face dangers they had never imagined. Against this backdrop, the best-selling novelist and historian James Carroll tells an unforgettable love story that illuminates a key moment in history with the passions of those who lived it.
Three teenagers from an American school in West Germany travel to Berlin to join a May Day rally on the Communist side of the divided city. Propelled by nadve ideals and in rebellion against preordained futures, they stumble into the center of an international incident. Paul, the father of one of the boys, and Charlotte, the elegant German-born mother of another, set off to rescue their children from the East German Stasi, which has detained them. Over the course of a weekend, Paul and Charlotte struggle with personal secrets, growing passion, and the weight of a generation that survived World War II only to face the loss of its children to the engulfing paranoia of the Cold War.
Secret Father inexorably pulls the reader into the heart of flashpoint Berlin. In this powerful tale, missed signals, cloaked motives, false postures, and panicked responses echo tragically across borders and generations.
About the Author
James Carroll was born in Chicago in 1943 and raised in Washington, D.C., where his father was an Air Force general and the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was educated at Washington"s Priory School and at an American high school in Wiesbaden, Germany. He attended Georgetown University before entering St. Paul"s College, the Paulist Fathers"seminary, where he received his B.A. and M.A. degrees. Carroll has been a civil rights worker, an antiwar activist, and a community organizer in Washington and New York. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969. Carroll served as Catholic chaplain at Boston University from 1969 to 1974. During that time, he studied poetry with George Starbuck and published books on religious subjects and a book of poems. He was also a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter (1972-1975) and was named Best Columnist by the Catholic Press Association. For his writing on religion and politics he received the first Thomas Merton Award from Pittsburgh"s Thomas Merton Center in 1972. Carroll left the priesthood to become a writer, and in 1974 was a playwright-in-residence at the Berkshire Theater Festival. His plays have been produced at the BTF and at Boston"s Next Move Theater. In 1976 he published his first novel, MADONNA RED, which was followed by--among others--MORTAL FRIENDS (1978), PRINCE OF PEACE (1984), and MEMORIAL BRIDGE (1991). THE CITY BELOW (1994) is now available in a Houghton Mifflin trade-paperback edition. He has written for numerous publications, including THE NEW YORKER, and his op-ed column appears weekly in the BOSTON GLOBE. He won a National Book Award for AN AMERICAN REQUIEM. James Carroll lives in Boston with his wife, the novelist Alexandra Marshall, and their two children.
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