FAMILY TRADE by James Carroll

FAMILY TRADE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sturdy, familiar Germany/KGB/CIA spy tangle--somewhat enhanced by a wide-span time frame, considerably marred by a drippy, gallant, heart-on-sleeve hero. We first meet Jake McKay as a Georgetown freshman in 1960: son of a CIA biggie, beloved nephew of the British Embassy's cultural attachÉ, Jake's a wearisomely plucky lad despite--or because of--his longtime bad leg. (He has learned to ""wear a walking stick"" rather than ""carry a cane."") But then Jake's world quickly starts falling apart--when he accidentally sees his father with a beautiful blonde stranger (Jake immediately jumps to wrong conclusions); when his dapper Uncle Giles suddenly defects to Moscow, exposed as a spy and a homosexual; when lake's father is apparently taken prisoner by his own CIA. . . and then suffers an ultimately fatal stroke. Jake does a little cloak-and-dagger action through this opening section, tracking down his father at the CIA hideout. But mostly he adolescently emotes--in feverish internal monologues and petulant dialogue (""But now you've deceived me!""). The second section comes as something of a relief, then: a flashback to 1945 in which McKay senior and Uncle Giles head up a secret Churchill mission to burning Berlin--supposedly to prevent Hitler's escape, really to prevent the invading Russians from getting their hands on Nazi A-bomb research. And this mission brings the two young brothers-in-law (who have an uneasy relationship because Giles has made a pass at McKay) into contact with a clutch of anti-Nazi German resisters--including Jorge Dettke, whose Jewish wife Anna-Lise and infant daughter Magda will be rescued from Germany when the mission ends tragically. One question is thus answered: blonde Anna-Lise, who went on to become a translator/agent for Giles and McKay, was the woman seen by Jake--his father's contact, not his mistress. But other questions remain: Was Giles really a spy? Why did he defect? Did McKay know all along? What happened to Jorge Dettke? Etc. And these are answered in the novel's final section: it's now 1980, Jake is a Tufts professor with wife and kids, Anna-Lise's gorgeous daughter Magda (now a spy) appears and persuades Jake to help her arrange for Uncle Giles' reverse defection--in Berlin. Unsurprising revelations ensue, along with long-lusted-after sex with Magda (""My dream! he said, fucking her"") and more of Jake's internal monologues (""This was the great passage rite he should have accomplished years ago""). A reasonably solid story, sometimes well-written--but readers who like the WW II action and the espionage tangle are unlikely to enjoy Jake's boy/man sentimentalities. . . and vice versa.

Pub Date: June 17th, 1982
Publisher: Little, Brown