For years, journalist Lucinda Franks had been estranged from her infuriating, impenetrable father. But when he faced eviction at the age of 80, she reluctantly stepped in to pick up the pieces of his chaotic life. While cleaning his apartment, she discovered a box of Nazi memorabilia that aroused her reporter's curiosity. Soon Franks was off and running on the investigation of a lifetime, as she gradually uncovered the key to her father's emotional remoteness in his secret wartime past. In this touching memoir, she recounts how she grew to love and understand this brave and complicated man at the very moment he was slipping away.
One day, while trying to straighten up her elderly father's apartment, Franks discovered Nazi military paraphernalia, inspiring the Pulitzer-winning reporter and novelist (Wild Apples) to investigate what he really did during the Second World War. The painstaking inquiries are hampered by his reluctance to discuss his work in military intelligence, attached to the navy's Bureau of Ordnance. Some of that reluctance may have to do with the onset of dementia tearing away his memories, but he's also profoundly traumatized by some of his missions. In one moving passage, he is persuaded to describe his experience as one of the first American observers at a liberated concentration camp, every sentence still painful to get out even 50 years later. As Franks perseveres with her questions, she begins to understand how those experiences shaped their disintegrating postwar family life, but she acknowledges how difficult it is to achieve closure with this past, especially when she's afraid to confront the reality of his present condition. Even the most painful moments-as when she throws a particularly harrowing revelation back in her father's face to score revenge for adolescent resentments-are recounted with unflinching honesty as the military history takes a backseat to the powerful family drama. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
After reestablishing contact with her troubled, elderly father following a long estrangement, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Franks (Wild Apples) begins to suspect he might have been a spy during World War II. Resentful over his adultery, alcoholism, and lapses of responsibility, she mercilessly questions him about his secret past and uses her journalistic skills to research his wartime activities. Despite suffering age-related ailments, her father reluctantly recalls vivid details of his clandestine service, e.g., reporting firsthand on the atrocities committed at the just-liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp in Germany. Through discovering his traumatic military experiences, Franks seeks to understand better both his life and her own. While her underlying anger toward her father is understandable, her long-term and almost cruel interrogation of him, which fills page after tedious page of this lengthy work, quickly becomes distasteful. She seems to care little about his clear emotional distress at being forced to recall these painful events. Her methods of investigation go too far, and her search for the truth rings of selfishness. This disturbing but candid memoir illuminates the dire human costs of war's trauma and may appeal to readers seeking to understand a family member scarred by military service. Suitable for larger public libraries.
A reporter for the New York Times, emotionally estranged from her father for most of her adult life, reconciles with him as she gradually, then obsessively, uncovers the story of his covert military activities during World War II. Franks, author of the novel Wild Apples (1991), begins with a childhood memory-wiping out on her bicycle, then lying bloody in her father's sheltering arms. But, as she quickly notes, there was little intimacy between them thereafter. She was angry with him for his ill treatment of her mother (who died in 1976), which included a long affair with a woman named Pat; for his slovenliness later on (she describes having to clean out his apartment); for his emotional coldness; for his refusal to talk about anything of consequence. But while cleaning up after him one day, she discovers in a box of items from the war some Nazi memorabilia. Thus begins the journey presented here, one filled with discoveries-about her father's role as a spy (and assassin) in both theaters of the war, about her parents' love (and its dissolution), about religion, about the author's roles as sister, wife, mother. As she gradually begins to coax her father to talk about his past, complications arise: He exhibits signs of dementia, then is diagnosed with terminal cancer. But before he dies, she has come, through her understanding of him, to love him once again. There are tears and lumps in her throat. At the moment of his death, she sees a disturbance in the air around his bed, decides it's God and practices thereafter a religious life that she abandoned long before. Much of her story deals with her research and with her discoveries, including a packet of love letters her father wrote to hermother during the war. She quotes long-often too-long-passages from them. She also reminds us throughout that she won a Pulitzer in 1971. A sturdy but overgrown narrative in need of substantial pruning.