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THE UNEXPECTED SPY

FROM THE CIA TO THE FBI, MY SECRET LIFE TAKING DOWN SOME OF THE WORLD'S MOST NOTORIOUS TERRORISTS

A mostly breezy read through some undeniably challenging and threatening circumstances.

A former CIA agent chronicles her story.

While attending a career-day event with her sorority sisters at the University of Southern California, Walder stopped at a recruiting table for the CIA. One of her sisters challenged her, “ ‘I thought you wanted to be a history teacher.’…‘I did,’ I said. And then I thought, but making history would be way better than teaching it.” The author was certainly there when history was made. On 9/11, she was inside CIA headquarters in Langley when all the chatter they’d been hearing about Osama bin Laden exploded into specific tragedy. In this debut memoir, Walder brings a you-are-there intimacy to her accounts of visits from George Bush (“he was always kind and cracked jokes, even as the tension mounted”) and Thanksgiving dinner delivered by George Tenet (“the food was amazing”). Often, the author was the youngest person in the room and one of few females, and she suggests that her politics were more liberal than those of many of her colleagues. Throughout the narrative, she leaves no question about her devotion to the agency and how misunderstood she feels its role has been. (She submitted her manuscript for CIA vetting and made the decision to publish it with passages and even whole paragraphs redacted.) Indeed, Walder fiercely defends the CIA, particularly as the Bush administration focused its attention on Iraq rather than targeting terrorists elsewhere. Regarding the CIA’s being blamed for faulty intel about weapons of mass destruction, she writes, “not a single bit of anything my team turned in was faulty. How it was changed and twisted by the White House was faulty. The CIA did not betray the White House. The White House betrayed the CIA.” Walder subsequently shifted from the CIA to the FBI, which she liked a lot less and eventually left. She now teaches at an all-girls high school, helping new generations prepare to confront the institutional misogyny they will likely face.

A mostly breezy read through some undeniably challenging and threatening circumstances.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-23098-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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