Secret Father

by James Carroll
ISBN: 0618152849

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A Review of: Secret Father
by Des McNally

This is an elegant novel, the first paragraph of which had this reader eagerly anticipating a narrative that would draw me into the author's near scholarly approach to fiction.
The story is set mostly in Berlin, just prior to the construction of the infamous Wall. We are quickly introduced to Paul Montgomery, a successful international banker and true American capitalist, benefiting from the reconstruction of post World War II Germany. Living with him in Frankfurt, following the tragic death of his disturbed mother, is Michael, his seventeen-year-old Polio-stricken son. Michael attends an American High School in Wiesbaden.
Attempting to put some space between himself and his controlling father, Michael begins associating with Ulrich (Rick) Healy, a self-styled Neo Marxist. Rick, the son of a German woman, Charlotte, and an adoptive American, General David Healy, challenges his girlfriend Katherine (Kit) Carson and Michael to attend a May Day rally in Soviet-occupied East Berlin.
At this point in the story, what began as three maturing teenagers' efforts to establish their independence, turns into a fascinating adventure in which espionage, love and the nurturing of relationships are the key ingredients. The three are detained by the notorious Stasi, East Germany's Secret Police, on fabricated charges. The Stasi are aware that Rick's father heads America's intelligence community in Germany and are prepared to exploit this fact to their advantage. Fearing an international incident, as well as being terrified for their children, Paul and Charlotte join forces and pursue their offspring to East Berlin in an attempt to rescue them.
What transpires is exciting drama in which Carroll delves deep into human weaknesses, and relationships between peers and between parents and their children. The situation is further complicated when Paul and Charlotte become irresistibly drawn to one another.
The author approaches his story in an orderly fashion, yet so vivid are his descriptions that we find ourselves surrounded by sound and movement which effectively evoke the particularly sad plight of the impoverished East German people. Carroll's style thankfully presents his readers with challenges; he writes with an adroitness that seamlessly changes the novel's mood from euphoria to tragedy, nostalgia to suspence. The political element always pervades Carroll's narrative and this novel debates the role that both the U.S.A. and the Soviets played in creating the Cold War with all of its consequences. The actual reasons for the dismantling of the Berlin Wall as well as current American foreign policies are convincingly treated in this thoughtful novel.
For those readers who were enthralled by Le Carr's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and who have yearned for more political thrillers in the same vein-enjoy! Enjoy the tension, passion, the excitement and Carroll's generous treatment of his characters in this most satisfying offering.

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