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My Father's Secret War: A Memoir by Lucinda…

My Father's Secret War: A Memoir (2007)

by Lucinda Franks

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"Bullets and butterflies, such a bizarre combination of hobbies. I let the lead slugs sift through my hand."

This was an amazing book. It's as much about the strained relationship between father and daughter as it is about his "secret war," and it's incredibly moving.

Tom Franks was a huge hero of WWII, but he's nobody you've ever heard of, in fact his name is practically wiped out of the records. Practically everything he did he was sworn to secrecy about, and those things, plus keeping them locked up tight, ate him alive for the rest of his life, destroying his relationships with everyone around him.

Late in his life, his daughter (who has had a deeply rocky relationship with him since she hit her teens) is cleaning up his home, going through boxes to dispose of unneeded junk taking up needed space, when she discovers some shocking items from the war; this prompts her to begin a personal crusade to find out just who was this man who was her father, and just what part did he play in the war. The book is essentially the record of these years of her struggle with the search and her struggle with family relationships.

"Now, when there's finally nothing left, the silence is at least enough." ( )
  PolymathicMonkey | Jan 2, 2014 |
I listened to this rather than reading it. I say this only because I can't flip through to the ending and now I think I will leave the last hour unheard. I found the first 3/4 of this story to be engaging, even compelling, in some parts. Franks did deep into the family relationships that encircle her father. She remembers her intense love for him and his sweet protection and teaching of her as a little girl. But family life later disintegrates and her father becomes dependent on her. Her love, rage and disappointment tangle them up and this story is the gradual unknotting of their relationship.

Franks is driven to know about her father's war time efforts. She uses her investigative reporting skills to uncover his story, initially against his will. This eventually draws them together. For me, the story finishes before the book does. The near final chapters tell of her continued search for details to get the full truth of his covert experiences. I was happy ending it with the details he shared and the meaning she made of them. I lost interest in the final verification of the same. It left me thinking: What is more important - The "real" truth or the meaning we make of our own truths? ( )
  Lcwilson45 | Jul 22, 2012 |
One woman's journalistic endeavors to uncover her father's secret contribution to WWII. Light, easy read with bits of history and dysfunction - truly echoes the phrase secrets will make you sick!! ( )
  revslick | Feb 5, 2012 |
I found this "brillian and haunting memoir" a huge disappointment. Started off sucking me in as I was interested in the story and the author (a Pulitzer Prize winner) but did not like the way she told the story. Found it a bit self-serving and egocentric. Who cares if she and her father found love after all those years? I wanted a real spy story and it was not that at all. ( )
  bogopea | Aug 18, 2011 |
In war men do despicable things and it changes them forever. Lucinda Franks' book about her father is at time moving, at times frustrating, and always interesting. It is the story of a woman coming to grips with the father she has really never known because he is secretive, quiet and alcoholic. They have had a difficult relationship all her life, and toward the end of his, she tries to find out who he is and how he became that person. Through several years of searching and questioning, she gets the answers to her questions, but she has to live with her decision to dig so deeply into her father's past. There were parts of the book that hit close to home, and I had an understanding of what and why she was doing what she did, but in the end, I don't think the book lived up to my expectations of the work of a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Still, it is a quick enjoyable read, and helps tell the story of a generation of soldiers who went to war, made promises and kept them--long after the need for their vow of silence was over. It is the story of many families who have had a loved one come home from war a different person. It is as true for soldiers who returned from Vietnam, Iraq, Korea or Afghanistan as it is those who returned from the horrors of WWII. ( )
  klaidlaw | Aug 27, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140135226X, Hardcover)

In this moving and compelling memoir about parent and child, father and daughter, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Lucinda Franks discovers that the remote, nearly impassive man she grew up with had in fact been a daring spy behind enemy lines in World War II. Sworn to secrecy, he began revealing details of his wartime activities only in the last years of his life as he became afflicted with Alzheimer’s. His exploits revealed a man of remarkable bravado -- posing as a Nazi guard, slipping behind enemy lines to blow up ammunition dumps, and being flown to one of the first concentration camps liberated by the Allies to report on the atrocities found there.

My Father’s Secret War is an intimate account of Franks coming to know her own father after years of estrangement. Looking back at letters he had written her mother in the early days of WWII, Franks glimpses a loving man full of warmth. But after the grimmest assignments of the war his tone shifts, settling into an all-too-familiar distance. Franks learns about him -- beyond the alcoholism and adultery -- and comes to know the man he once was.

Her story is haunting, and beautifully told, even as the tragedy becomes clear: Franks finally comes to know her father, but only as he is slipping further into his illness. Lucinda Franks understands her father as the disease claims him. My Father’s Secret War is a triumph of love over secrets, and a tribute to the power of the connection of family.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:47 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In this memoir, journalist Lucinda Franks describes her quest to learn to know her father. During World War II Thomas Franks served as spy in the Third Reich. In 1945 he was among the first soldiers into Ohrdruf, a subcamp of Buchenwald near the town of Gotha, Germany. As Tom's dementia progresses, Lucinda gathers fragments of his memories in order to understand her father and his secrets.… (more)

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