cover image An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us

An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us

James Carroll. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $23.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-395-77926-2

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. (May)