Books by politicians are not often worth reading, but John McCain's Faith of My Fathers is an astonishing exception to the rule. The Republican senator from Arizona has a remarkable story to tell--better than just about any of his peers--and he tells it well, with crisp prose and an unexpected sense for narrative pacing. The first half of the book concerns his naval forbears: his grandfather commanded an aircraft carrier in the Second World War, while his father presided over all naval forces in the Pacific during the Vietnam War. They were the first father-son admirals in American history. Young John McCain knew he had enormous shoes to fill and rebelled against many of the expectations set for him. At the Naval Academy, he was nearly expelled, graduating fifth from the bottom of his class. He never became an admiral, but achieved fame another way: as a naval aviator in 1967, he was shot down over North Vietnam and spent several years in POW camps, where he was beaten, tortured, and nearly allowed to die. McCain describes the awful details of his imprisonment and tells how he stayed mentally strong during seemingly endless months of solitary confinement and how he communicated in code with fellow captives. Faith of My Fathers concludes with McCain's release and contains no information about his subsequent political career. It is, nonetheless, a complete and compelling memoir of individual heroism--one that will interest both political and military history buffs. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
As the 2000 presidential campaign heats up, Republican hopeful McCain, the senior senator from Arizona, weighs in with the most engrossing book to appear in a long time from a presidential candidate. Writing with Salter, his administrative assistant, McCain carefully avoids the pitfalls of self-promotion, knowing that he has a larger, more interesting story to tell than merely why he wants to be president. McCain is famous for the five years he endured as a prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton, the most notorious POW camp in Vietnam. Less well known are two other John McCains: his father and grandfather, both of whom served as admirals in the U.S. Navy. The military service of all three men forms the basis of this gripping, heartfelt reflection on war and naval culture. McCain's grandfather was a legendary old salt, a hard-drinking gambler who fought in WWII next to giants like Nimitz and Halsey. McCain's father was a submarine commander who rose to become commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific during the Vietnam War. Almost half the book is devoted to McCain's grueling tenure as a POW. When he was shot down over Hanoi in 1967, he broke both arms, one shoulder and one knee. During his imprisonment, McCain was tortured repeatedly and frequently locked in solitary confinement. The faith McCain avows is a simple one: "in God, country, and each other"Aeach other being his comrades at the Hanoi Hilton and, later, his fellow citizens. McCain's memoir is too good to be dismissed as simply another campaign book. It is a serious, utterly engrossing account of faith, fathers and military tradition. (Sept.)
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