Kirkus Reviews QR Code
RED, WHITE, BLUE by Lea Carpenter Kirkus Star


by Lea Carpenter

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5247-3214-1
Publisher: Knopf

The day before Anna's wedding in Switzerland, her powerfully connected, globe-trotting father mysteriously dies on a ski slope. It's only after his death that she learns just how deep the mysteries around him run.

During her belated honeymoon in the south of France, she has an encounter in a hotel bar with a CIA case worker who tells her that her father, Noel, was a cohort of his at the agency. She later learns through recordings and a shocking video of Noel being interrogated that he may have spied for the Chinese. Combined with memories of her mother's abandonment of her when she was little, the revelations leave her with "nothing but an outline of the story of her own life." Though she attended Princeton, mastered Chinese and Russian, and worked at the Ford Foundation, Anna has always had a rebellious streak, as reflected in her marriage to a pop-music producer. But in a life further clouded by miscarriages, a failing marriage, and investigations into her own background after "her husband" (as he's always called, with no name) announces his bid for a New York Senate seat, she is left not knowing what to rebel against except fate itself. Carpenter's artfully fragmented novel, which alternates between third-person chapters told from Anna's perspective and the CIA agent's first-person narrative, brilliantly uses the conventions of spy fiction to expose the duplicity and betrayals in people's personal lives. In her chilly, unsparing dissection of the trickle-down effect the muddied morality of bureaucracies has on private lives, Carpenter reveals the influence of Joan Didion, queen of alienation.

Employing a failed spy operation as the backdrop for a young woman's search for identity, Carpenter's mesmerizing follow-up to her acclaimed war novel, Eleven Days (2013), is as deeply affecting as it is razor-sharp.