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God, My Father, and the War that Came Between Us

by James Carroll

Pub Date: May 27th, 1996
ISBN: 0-395-77926-X
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

 An ex-priest's confessional attempt to make peace with his dead father. For nearly 20 years, novelist Carroll (The City Below, 1994; Memorial Bridge, 1991; etc.) barely talked to his father, the late lieutenant general Joseph F. Carroll, founding director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. They fell out over the war in Vietnam; over the way the younger Carroll conducted himself as a priest; and over the son's finally opting out of the priesthood, just as his father had done. Carroll confronts the demons left by his troubled relationship with his father and his church by telling his family's story, focusing especially on the political and religious turmoil that tore them apart in the 1960s. The book is sometimes embarrassingly heartfelt in a '60s bare-your-soul style that seemed fresh then but now sounds like the everyday kitsch of touchy-feely, tell-all television. Also, Carroll's lack of communication with his father, always a man of few words, forces him to speculate about the older man's emotions, just as he must speculate about what advice his father gave presidents on the war in Vietnam. But Carroll's honesty and sincerity, and the fascination of his story, triumph over any temptation to mock him as waxing too sentimental about his glory days as a radical campus priest counseling war resisters. Carroll argues persuasively that he is still that priest, albeit in a different role, and with a wife and children. And despite his falling out with both his father and his church, he thanks them for giving him the courage of his convictions and for making him a priest, even as they broke his heart. A fresh retelling of old stories about a son's struggles with his father and his God, and a memoir that may help put more demons to rest for others of the '60s generation. (Author tour)