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Breaking the Code: A Father's Secret, a Daughter's Journey, and the Question That Changed Everything

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  • Posted December 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Much More Than a Mem­oir

    Break­ing the Code: A Father's Secret, A Daughter's Jour­ney and the Ques­tion That Changed Every­thing by Karen Fisher-Alaniz is a non-fiction book which tells about the author's research into her father's ser­vice in World War II.

    On his 81st birth­day Mur­ray Fisher gave his daugh­ter the let­ters he wrote his par­ents while serv­ing in the US Navy in World War II. When sort­ing through the let­ters his daughter, Karen Fisher-Alaniz the author, uncov­ered her father's past while learn­ing about the lin­ger­ing trauma that bugged the man who brought her up.

    I love read­ing about World War II and espe­cially mem­oirs of the "Great­est Gen­er­a­tion" who, unfortunately is leav­ing us by the thou­sands each week. Many of those dying have amaz­ing sto­ries which will for­ever be untold, projects like Speilberg's "Sur­vivors of the Shoah Visual His­tory " are extremely impor­tant not only for for the chil­dren of the "Great­est Gen­er­a­tion" but also for future his­to­ri­ans and for a bet­ter world. Which is why, when I was offered to join the tour for Break­ing the Code by Karen Fisher-Alaniz I jumped at the oppor­tu­nity - I was not disappointed.

    The book is much more than a mem­oir, it is a heart­felt trib­ute to a man who has been strug­gling with demons his whole life, yet became a pro­duc­tive mem­ber of society, bringing up proud future gen­er­a­tions by set­ting exam­ple of an exem­plary life. Ms. Fisher-Alaniz dis­cusses in the book how she never lis­tened to her father's sto­ries grow­ing up, some­thing I believe we are all guilty of. When she received the let­ters he wrote his par­ents, the basis of this book, she regret­ted blow­ing off those sto­ries, but a teenager's mind is still a mys­tery to sci­ence and humanity.

    Mr. Fisher, the author's father, was a code­breaker and under con­stant sur­veil­lance with a threat of death hang­ing over his head if he talked too much. The pres­sure and respon­si­bil­ity were huge for the young man. Other events (which I will not spoil) caused Mr. Fisher to come back with Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der (PTSD), a trauma which has been recorded for cen­turies but only recently has been acknowl­edged and stud­ied. A prod­uct of a by-gone era, Mr. Fisher's reluc­tance to get help only hurt him and with the rev­e­la­tion of the let­ters and his daughter's inves­ti­ga­tion his past came back to haunt him.

    A Father's Secret is a fast read, some of the mul­ti­tude of let­ters Mr. Fisher wrote dur­ing World War II from Hawaii, Oki­nawan, Iwo Jima and more are in the book. Each chap­ter includes a let­ter with the author's story inter­twinded within.

    I have read many mem­oirs and fam­ily sto­ries, Break­ing the Code stands out from the rest due mainly to the story it's telling. Many of the books are writ­ten for fam­ily mem­bers — and that's great — but for those of us who didn't know the sub­ject they do not sta

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Why was her father suffering from PTSD if he only had a desk job

    Why was her father suffering from PTSD if he only had a desk job during WWII? Daughter Karen forges a closer relationship with her reticent father through pushing him to tell stories about his service in WWII. Somewhat slow but well-written and beautifully done with personal WWII photos and scans of letters, postcards, documents, and bits of ephemera. Readers will live through Karen’s journey of discovery, hoping to find a happy ending for her father.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2012

    If you like human relationship stories, you'll like this one.

    I loved the book .. mostly because it was a father/daughter story and I think many times daughters don't get to know their dads until later in life, as was my case. I learned some war information that I didn't know and am always amazed what everyday guys were asked to do during wartime. I felt like it was a hometown story since I'm from Spokane and have visited Dayton.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2011

    A heartfelt tribute to a parent that served in World War II

    This is a beautiful narrative and tribute to a parent that served in World War II, told by his daughter, who, at first, couldn't quite understand her Dad when he told his war stories. As is said in the book, when she was younger she didn't understand her parent and would not be able to discover why these stories of his time serving in the Navy would come up and why he would be despondent and not want to talk at all.


    On his 81st birthday, the author's father gave her two old notebooks that were filled with letters that he had written to his parents when he was stationed in the Pacific during WWII. When she read them she began to realize that, although her father was always there for her and talked to her, they never really had a real conversation. He told her and her sister about his time in the Navy and the girls never really paid attention. When she started reading them, she realized that her father was a very complicated man that she never really knew. The author and her Dad met for lunch every week so she could ask him about some of the passages in the letters that she didn't understand. When this happened, she learned that he had been part of a small group of men who were being trained to break a top-secret code of the Japanese. Her grandparents thought that he had spent the war in Hawaii but, in reality, he had traveled with a group of men throughout the Paciific watched by FBI agents and ended up on Iwo Jima. In a small excerpt from the book, she states: I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Such a simple question, (Is there anyone that you hung out with or became friends with on the base?) had led my father to share this new revelation. I dared not ask another question for fear that I'd break the spell and never know what secrets he harbored.

    The author's father and five other men had been sent to code-breaking school and were informed that from this moment on everything that they did was top secret. They couldn't reveal their job to their tent mates or anyone else, including family. They would be watched at all times and their mail would be censored. They were not to talk about anything in letters home. Even a hint of what they were doing would be reason for a court martial. The author and her Dad went on this painful journey together and she helped him to remember the things that had happened. Sadly, this brave sailor had been suffering from PTSD. (This was before anyone really understood what this can do to people).

    This was a very heart warming and heart wrenching book as the author tried to help her Dad to remember the things that he accomplished in the Navy, even to the point of sending for his service records, which told some things but not all. A book that tells the story of a father and daughter relationship that will live in their hearts for all time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Family Intrigue!

    This book is part memoir, part family story, part family secret story. When Karen receives a packet of the letters that her father wrote his parents during his time in the military. Karen grew up very rarely hearing stories about what her father did during the war so much of his life in that time period. Karen starts doing some of her own research as well as transcribing her father's letters. She also begins meeting her father every week to ask her some of the questions that come up while she's looking through the letters.

    This is a deeply moving story, made all the more moving by the fact that it's real. Through their talks, Karen and her father not only talk about her father's history but Karen begins to understand more about where her father is coming from. It was interesting to read about how Karen began doing her research on what her dad was actually doing during the war. At some points in the book, I really found myself wishing that maybe there would be a little more detail of Karen's dad's story.

    Bottom line: This is a great book for fans of World War II history and family stories!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Breaking the Code was an emotional journey

    Breaking the Code is a wonderful true story of a daughter's quest to transcribe WWII letters written by her father. What started out as a gift to her children, became a journey of learning, healing, self-discovery, bonding and understanding. I enjoyed this book immensely. It was told in first person by Karen, the daughter of Murray Fisher. She speaks in a no-nonsense way that keeps you turning the pages. The book contains Murray's letters, postcards, photos, and some official documents. For war and history buffs, this is a rare look into the daily life of a Navy solider during the war. I found the places, activities and Fisher's job(s) during the war to be very interesting. Karen Fisher-Alaniz offers us a rare glimpse into a very special, humble man and his struggle to deal with the memories. Breaking the Code was an emotional journey, and I found myself laughing and crying. I recommend this to all. This would make the perfect holiday gift for anyone on your list. I want to thank netGalley and Sourcebooks for this ARC, in exchange for my unbiased review.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2013

    Excellent true WWII story

    Fisher-Alaniz is handed a WWII mystery by her 80+ year old father, who fought in the war. Or did he? Why was he, suddenly, having dreams that appeared to be flashbacks/PTSD? Fisher-Alaniz sets out to transcribe her father's war letters home and, in the process, try to help her father come to grips with his war experiences.
    The story is less about his code-breaking and more about his PTSD and his daughter's need to help him.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2013

    It keeps drawing you further into the mystery of...

    I was baffled at the odd circumstances of a sailor with time on his hands and nothing-to-do in the middle of the world's most expansive war until the strands of his story began to weave an amazing tale.

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  • Posted December 11, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Highly Recommend

    I recieved a recommendation from JA Jance (my favorite author) and bought this book. I started reading it this morning and am deeply engrossed. The story flows beautifully and the father is becoming a very real person to me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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