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SAYING GOODBYE: A Memoir for Two Fathers by M.R. Montgomery

SAYING GOODBYE: A Memoir for Two Fathers

By M.R. Montgomery

ISBN: 394-57333-1
Publisher: Knopf

Boston Globe columnist Montgomery's attempt to find meaning and reconciliation in the lives of his father and father-in-law. As a member of the US Navy Civil Engineer Corps, Montgomery's American father spent part of WW II literally paving the way for the arrival of troops in Scotland. As a Japanese resident alien, Montgomery's father-in-law spent the war years teaching his native language to naval recruits in Boulder, Col.; he avoided detention camp by giving up his thriving medical practice in California and going east. A direct and sustained comparison of these men might have been fascinating, but it does not occur here. The men met only once--at the author's wedding--and saw no need to continue their new relationship. Each lived for decades after the war, but neither was inclined to talk about it very much. Thus, the author's attempt to re-create their experiences proceeds through historical documentation. As he sifts through "tens of thousands" of pieces of paper in document rooms stretching from Fort Peck, Mont., to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., to the Naval Construction Battalion Center at Port Hueneme, Cal., Montgomery amasses mountains of detail. But extensive treatments of the geological characteristics of northeastern Montana, the politics behind the founding of the Naval Schools of Oriental Languages, the history of lend-lease, or the intricacies of his father's military personnel record do not make it at all clear whether the "difficulty of the father-and-child relationship" that Mongomery set out to explore has been resolved. Excessively detailed and likely to disappoint the student of psychohistory; but Montgomery's encyclopedic research may hold the attention of engineers and amateur historians of WW II.