Debut memoirist Fisher-Alaniz offers a sensitive account of how she helped her war-veteran father confront a traumatic memory he had carried with him for more than 50 years.
On the day Murray Fisher turned 81, he gave the author two notebooks filled with more than 400 pages of letters he had written to his parents while he was stationed at Pearl Harbor during World War II. Baffled, the author took it upon herself to not only read and transcribe his letters (several of which appear in the book) but to understand the motivations behind her father’s unexpected gesture. She knew he had served in the Navy and that he had “spent his days working in an office.” She did not know, however, that he had been trained to copy Katakana, the code the Japanese military had used to communicate top-secret information. Her father could never speak of his work to outsiders because “anyone could be a spy.” In March 1945, Fisher and a fellow code breaker and friend were sent to Okinawa, where a shrapnel wound killed the friend. Fisher’s grief and guilt were so intense that he suffered a temporary breakdown. This story of an adult child learning to understand a parent she thought she knew is simple and unpretentious. While the narrative lacks literary finesse, it is nevertheless commendable for how it breaks the silence surrounding PTSD. “Whether the veteran returned from war sixty years ago or six days ago,” she writes, “one thing remains constant: it’s time for us to talk and to listen.”
Not the most elegant memoir, but a genuine tale told from the heart.