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Full Fathom Five: A Daughter's Search Hardcover – April 29, 2008

19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

 “In her very personal quest to find a father she never knew, Ms. Fowler breathes life into those men who volunteered and served aboard the diesel boats. She wisely allows the people who were there to tell their experiences. . . . This is a romance, an intensely personal search for family roots, a war story, and a compelling examination of aspects of World War II.”
?Don Keith, coauthor of Gallant Lady: A Biography of the USS Archerfish

About the Author

Mary Lee Coe Fowler is a writer and teacher of English and ESL living in Maine. Author of Growing with Community Gardening, her work has appeared in Other Voices, Mother Earth News, and Bloomsbury Review.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: University Alabama Press; 1st Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817316116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817316112
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,258,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Wallace Blue on May 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book. It is a memoir of a woman who, at mid-life, began a search for the character of her father, a submarine commander who was lost at sea during World War II. It is a great read on several levels. The reader gets a glimpse into the lives of a young naval officer and his wife as they celebrate the beginning years of marriage while living in the Hawaii and Manila of the 1930's. Then, there is a well-researched account of life aboard a submarine from the every day trials of getting the job done in the steaming, stinking heat of the sub's interior to the cat and mouse game of survival as they attempted to disrupt Japanese shipping in the South Pacific. In addition she reveals the tragedy of a family ruined by the circumstances of war and the hope for healing of a woman who "gets to know" her dad even though he died before she was born. Mary Lee Coe Fowler is the kind of writer I like to read. She writes with a clear, evocative style that leaves the reader hoping that there are more books like this one on the way
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth G. May on May 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As our family "armchair" genealogist, I have recently begun some research into a cousin's life who was a World War II Japanese POW. Delving into military history can be tedious. Facts are the "skeleton" of research, but makes for dry reading, and very obviously the literature field on World War II has been a male-dominated one, understandably.

Enter one Ms. Mary Lee Coe Fowler.

Full Fathom Five: A Daughter's Search is the story of a daughter's search to connect with her father, submarine Cmdr. James "Red" Coe, who apparently perished with his crew on the sub Cisco while on her first war patrol. Widowed with two young children and pregnant with Mary Lee when Jim Coe was reported missing, her mother remarries quickly. The marriage was not a happy one, and though the author does not overly dwell on her "war-orphaned" childhood, my heart went out to the young Mary Lee. One passage early on describes Mary Lee finding some old, but fancy clothing hidden away in an attic; secret remainders of a happier time for her parents, their honeymoon. The ghosts of Jim and of a much different Rachael Coe are physically palpable in the dust-moted air of the attic and I can visualize the scene perfectly in my mind.

The story is a terrific combination - part romance, history, and personal biography. Written with just the right amount of technical explanations, it gives the layman an easy understanding of the Pacific war front and the fledgling submarine division of the U.S. Navy.

Mary Lee's persistent and detailed research rewards her readers with many individual insights from people who lived through these traumatic events and adds a special richness to the story.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Shannon on May 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. It is written by someone who is not trained in the military yet does an amazing job documenting her father's career and life aboard a wartime submarine. Ms. Fowler also gives a unique perspective on how a loss af a submarine affects so many lives.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Terri DuLong on May 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the moment this story began, I was captivated and drawn in. A stunning piece of work which flawlessly combines history, a love story, loss and redemption.
Although my knowledge of WWII in Europe is well-rounded, I had very little knowledge of the submarines in the Pacific. In layman's terms, this author gave me a deep understanding and pride for all of the men that served there.
Fowler's attempt to "construct" a father she never knew was both poignant and thought provoking. Far from placing blame or being maudlin, this author comes to discover her own identity....and in doing so, she allows her readers the priviledge of also getting to know Jim Coe. One very special man.
By the end of the story....I knew without doubt that this author is indeed her father's daughter.
I highly recommend this wonderful and refreshing read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Edward J. Weyhing on May 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Whether you read Full Fathom Five because of the story's subtitle - "A daughter's search" - or because you are a military history buff, or because you are a submarine veteran (or the wife or daughter of one), you will be more than satisfied.

Author Mary Lee Coe Fowler - born after the death of her father, World War II submarine skipper Commander Jim Coe - effectively brings him to life (in less than 300 pages) in this combination of memoir and history, using dozens of interviews, careful research, and a frank examination of how her own feelings about the Navy and things military evolved over the course of the book. But most of all how the reality of her father took shape.

After the death of her mother in the 1990s, a photograph of Fowler's father with her older brother and sister stirred old longings for him. From there she begins a ten-year journey to the completion of Full Fathom Five. The journey takes her through museums and archives, libraries and Navy bases. She draws from Japanese wartime history and detailed logs and records, as well as those of the US Navy. She brings along her older siblings - each with a slightly different need to have this story told. She talks to friends of her parents and veterans who served with and under her father.

The result is seamless: a beautifully written combination of history, journalism, humor, terrifying action, resulting in the picture of her father which emerges.

I was held by the story Fowler tells. I am retired now, but in my own five years in the Navy, followed by a professional career which included 20 years as a Navy contractor, I knew and worked with a number of former and present submarine officers - their service ranging from World War II to nuclear submarines. All of them would agree with me regarding the thoroughness of Fowler's research and the authenticity of the story which emerges. And everyone will be taken by the portrait she paints of a previously unknown father.
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