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An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us Paperback – April 1, 1997
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If the Civil War pitted brother against brother, the Vietnam War is best understood as pitting father against son. Some of Vietnam's longest lasting battles were fought in heavy rages and even heavier silences across the dinner table. James Carroll is a veteran of many such skirmishes. A novelist now, this book is his story of what it was like to be an anti-war priest in the '60s while his father was an Air Force general deeply involved in Pentagon planning. What makes the book particularly moving is that Carroll comes to realize that his father is no mono-dimensional saber-rattler (indeed, he suspects that his father's military career came to its sudden end because of the stances he took inside the corridors of power against expanding and intensifying the war). But the terrible truth was that neither the father nor the son ever managed to transcend the boundaries of their particular roles to meet each other in a candid, reciprocal relationship. And Carroll is honest--he tells us this, painfully. A very fine book, which along the way reports interestingly on some nearly forgotten '60s episodes.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
A Review by Anthony T. Riggio of James Carroll’s book “An American Requiem, (God, My Father and the War that came between us).
This book was originally published in 1996 and it was obtained through an Amazon, reseller as a used book. I was interested in this book because the author was known to me indirectly through his brother Brian Carroll and having read “Prince of Peace” and the “Sword of Constantine” I enjoyed the author’s style of writing and since this book appeared to me to be a memoir or auto biographical work of his experiences as the son of an Air Force Lieutenant General. A General who was also former FBI Agent and was a close associate of J. Edgar Hoover, I believed it was a story I could relate with, especially since I worked with his brother Brian while we were both FBI Agents. In fact, Brian was very proud of his brother James when he gave me a copy of his “Prince of Peace” novel about spiritual and political conflicts during the period of the Vietnam War.
I was aware that James was a former Paulist priest who had left both his Order and the Priesthood. I was hoping that this book would give me greater insight as to the reasons he gave up his calling as a Priest.
This book did give me tremendous insight into the inner struggles one goes through in abandoning a calling from the priesthood or as Catholic knows this as Holy Orders, a very sacred sacrament.
The story is a very familiar story of the struggles between a son and his father. Carroll’s father was your classic over achiever who fought his way out of the neighborhoods of Chicago and the Seminary. This is a central theme between his son James and the father. After completing Law School Joe Carroll (the father of James), he joins the FBI and becomes a close confidant of J. Edgar Hoover. When the President of the United States wants an FBI Agent to head the new AOSI (Air Force Office of Security Investigations), Hoover volunteers Joe Carroll. Often the sons of fathers who are dedicated to their jobs feel both the admiration and the absence of their hard working fathers.
Because of the experiences James Carroll had as a child growing up in the Air Force; his travels and his experiences were probably atypical for a boy at that time. Having grown up in the Bronx, living in a small apartment, I would have given my “eye” teeth to have had half the experiences James Carroll had. Still, there were some experiences that imprinted on his character development. I believe it was mostly his Mother’s devotion that led James to the priesthood notwithstanding his own father, Joe Carroll’s, experience of leaving the seminary when he was a young man.
James Carroll was a sort of rebel early on in his growing up but when he commenced his studies at the seminary, he branched off both politically and socially which were indeed the antitheses of his Father’s driving ambitions. He was even arrested as a result of his participations in demonstrations. He was also a friend of the Berrigen brothers who were also priests though much more rebellious during the Vietnam War than James Carroll. I suspect his Father approval was always a factor in many of his life decisions.
I rated this book very high (5 stars) because I truly enjoyed Carroll's writing style and the raw emotion felt while feel while reading this book. I gave it five stars and had bought this book through an Amazon.
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