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An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us Hardcover – April 4, 1996

4.3 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Intrusion: A Novel
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

James Carroll, now a columnist with The Boston Globe, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest to the intense pride of his family, especially his father who had studied for the priesthood but had dropped that vocation to become eventually a leading military officer in Vietnam. However when he preached his first sermon, before his family and colleagues of his father, Carroll felt impelled to express disapproval of the war. This was taken as an act of filial disloyalty causing an enormous breach between father and son. Each was a man of principle, each convinced that he was right and the other wrong. Carroll made the breach complete when he left the priesthood to marry. This is his poignant account of a divide that reflected wider American society.

From Publishers Weekly

Carroll, a novelist (Family Trade), poet and former priest, has written a moving memoir of the effect of the Vietnam War on his family that is at once personal and the story of a generation. His father was an Air Force general who won his stars by being one of the bright lights of the FBI-and a favorite of J. Edgar Hoover-rather than by working his way up through the military. One of Carroll's four brothers dodged the draft in Canada, another was an FBI agent ferreting out draft dodgers and he himself-a former ROTC Cadet of the Year at Georgetown-became an "antiwar" chaplain at Boston University who demonstrated in the streets but ducked the cameras for fear his father might recognize him. Carroll was earmarked from birth to be a priest (his father had trained for the priesthood but dropped out just before ordination) and received personal encouragement from Pope John XXIII and Cardinal Spellman, a family friend. Carroll's heroes evolved from Elvis to Pope John to Martin Luther King, rebel theologian Hans Kung, poet Allen Tate (his mentor) and Eugene McCarthy-most of whom his father considered enemies. After much personal struggle, Carroll left the priesthood, married and became a father, but the break with his own father was never repaired. At once heartbreaking and heroic, this is autobiography at its best.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 279 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; First Edition edition (April 4, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039577926X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395779262
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,087,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As a reader in my early twenties, until I read this memoir it was difficult for me to understand the enormity that was the Vietnam War to American consciousness. The power of the book is two-fold. The first is the picture Carroll paints of his family -- a distinctly American creation with which most readers can identify, especially those like myself who had a military upbringing. The second is the historic moment in which Carroll's emotional story unfolds. Until this book, I never truly felt what a blow the Vietnam War was to many Americans' faith in their country. The pathos in the story lies in the fact that while Carroll finds himself politically and ideologically in the tumultuous era of the 70's, he simultaneously alienates himself from his beloved father and the values the older man embodies. Some readers may think that the memoir is overly sentimental, yet the sincerity and introspection with which Carroll writes makes the emotions in the book more evocative than the more tired tear-jerkers out there. The complex emotions of love and regret are expressed beautifully by the close of the book. One of the most emotionally evocative books I've read in a long time and also an informative glimpse into a period of American history.
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Format: Paperback
This is an honest, soul-searching book about a man who questions his faith and his father's role in the Vietnam War. Rather than taking a "moral high ground," like one of the earlier reviewers claimed, I found Carroll's writing to be very humble and self-effacing. He readily admits to "standing in the background" on many of the early protests.
Although Carroll's questioning of religious AND military apologists will no doubt raise the ire of dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, his perspective is a breath of fresh air to those of us with moral questions of our own.
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Format: Paperback
I was so surprised by reading the few negative reviews of this book that I felt obligated to comment. Yes, his story is one-sided, and no, he doesn't explore his father's perspective much, or what the proponents of war were really thinking. And yes, he obviously feels that he was in the right to protest the war.
But this isn't a book about his father, the Catholic Church, and especially not about the Vietnam war. This is simply the story of his life, as he presents it. Like the best of books, you root for the protagonist, you sympathize with him, and sometimes you wish he had done things differently. It is a fascinating, absorbing read and a good glimpse into the spirit of a time that I am too young to know myself. It's also an odd juxtaposition with the current events of our nation at war.
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Format: Paperback
In this book we see Jim Carroll right of passage to manhood. It takes place during the same years of Vietnam. And his families like many others were placed in conflict by it; it split two generations apart like no other war. Father and son were being at odds with one another. And the author uses this book to support his position that he took in protesting the war.

Though his famous father, Ex-FBI Agent and Lt. Gen. Carroll in command of the DIA is the subject of some of his consternation. The book is not about him. It is about Jim Carroll and his relationship with his father who seemed to never be able to fill a void he made in himself by not becoming a Priest himself. And it seems to me this is the large reason for the conflict between them...Jim felt his father expected to be redeemed by his works as a Priest. Though his father never says this.

So when you pick up this book to read, remember it is about Jim Carroll's life and his struggle with his faith and his father. And it does show the spirit of those times. Worth the read.
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Format: Paperback
Jim Carroll has written a remarkable book. Contrary to the reviewers on this site, Carroll is not a moral coward. To stand up for what you believe in the face of family and friends is the opposite of cowardice. And Carroll is not Anti-Catholic at all, if you read carefully, you would understand that, while he has differences with his religion, that he still holds the church in respect. Read this book...and you will understand how the negative reviewers have completely missed the boat and have let their own ideological agendas cloud their judgment.
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Format: Paperback
A heart wrenching memoir of Mr. Carroll's journey through catholism, politics and the family structure. As one who stood in those crowds pleading the injustices of a war many miles away not only in distance but purpose, I found James Carroll's life story inspiring. Many times through this novel I would find myself saying "I didn't know that." A major announcement from one who thought she knew just about all there was to know about the Vietnam war and the lies, senseless deaths and minipulative politics (is that an oxymoron) that surrounded this dark time in American history. I found the chapter "Holy Wars" most intriguing. It never ceases to amaze me how the Catholic church seems to find itself in the middle of some of the most important conflicts of the past two centuries.
"American Requiem" should be required reading for any 20th century history course and it might not be a bad read for a catholicism course. Since I was raised catholic and still practice in my own way, I could sympathize with the agony Mr. Carroll and his father experienced when it came to their faith. Fortunately, James Carroll was able to vocalize the conflict surrounding his love of God and a church that gives him spiritual balance and the problems with that same church's power and its decisions that appear to be made sometimes more for political gain rather than spiritual enrichment. The real tragedy falls in Mr. Carroll's father's story. Although the senior Carroll's professional life is nothing short of fascinating, his personal life reminds us how empty it all can be if we do not acknowledge the things that are truly important.
This was the first "history" based novel that I was unable to put down. Go get it now.
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