From the author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl comes a novel about music, love, friendship, and freedom.
It is only in Berlin, 28 years later, that the mystery surrounding the events of spring 1961 is finally clarified and, with it, the emotional truths that have long shadowed the story's characters. Carroll, whose most recent books have been well-received nonfiction treatises on the Catholic Church such as Constantine's Sword, got his start writing bestselling popular fiction, and he's back at it -- and in best pulp fettle -- in this new novel. In his first novel in nine years, Carroll, whose Mortal Friends and Prince of Peace brought him many ardent readers, focuses on a single weekend in 1961, just before the Berlin Wall created an impenetrable barrier between East and West. Ita€™s 1961, and three high-school friends cut class to attend the May Day rally in East Berlin in the last tense days before the wall goes up. But when three of them receive a mysterious text message promising success and fame beyond belief, they say yes to everything. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. Missed signals, cloaked motives, false postures, and panicked responses echo tragically across borders and generations when, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a father and son recount the tense events of nearly thirty years before. It's not so much a spy novel as a suspenseful love story that challenges the conventional wisdom about the Cold War, the war that Americans like to think we won. The book's epigraph from Dostoyevsky -- ''Real love, compared to fantasy, is a harsh and dreadful thing'' -- suggests there is no redemption without pain. Ulrich "Rick" Healy is Michael's rebellious best friend, son of an American general, David Healy, and his German wife, Charlotte. On an idealistic lark, three American high school students travel to the Communist side of Berlin for the May Day parade. Set apart from their classmates by their seriousness and their intelligence, Ulrich Neuhaus, Michael Montgomery, and Katherine "Kit" Carson come from complicated backgrounds. Even to the harrowing initiation ceremony in a gritty warehouse downtown, and to the ankh-shaped tattoo they're forced to get on the nape of their necks.
It's all perfect—until a body is found in Central Park with no distinguishing marks except for an ankh-shaped tattoo. In 1961, just before the Wall rises, three teenagers from an American school in West Germany travel to the Communist side of the divided city to join a rally.

But the message of Secret Father is broader: for nations as for individuals, there can be no imagining the future until the past has been quieted. Unknown to them, their parents have unfinished business reaching back to World War II which will pull the teens into the vortex of an international incident.
Meanwhile, their frantic parents mobilize, with two of them traveling to Berlin to pluck the kids loose.
His mother Charlotte is an aristocrat haunted by her wartime marriage to Ulricha€™s father.
As students at the exclusive Chadwick School, Phoebe, Lauren, Nick, and Patch already live in a world most teenagers only dream about. Surprisingly, this generic plot supports a beautifully textured exploration of relationships between husbands and wives, parents and sons, friends and lovers.
Kit, a fledgling writer, has an abusive sergeant for a father, an accommodating southern mother, and secret plans to attend Ole Miss.
Rick, a budding socialist and leader of the three, decides they should cut school and travel to Berlin to attend the great May Day parade in the Eastern sector. Love, in its harsh and dreadful facets, is portrayed as a powerful force, capable of fusing hearts but also of destroying them. Michael, crippled by polio, lives alone with his overprotective banker father Paul, who blames himself for the accidental death of Michaela€™s mother.
The trip begins as a lark, but descends into chaos after their capture by East German police on trumped up currency-fraud charges. A wonderful bonus is Carroll's re-creation of the 1961 atmosphere and the tense facts of the Cold War in Berlin. It is the politically studious Ulrich who proposes the disastrous trip that is at the center of Carrolla€™s somber and evocative look at some of the most frightening times in one of the most frightening places in the Cold War.
Each life altered, or ended, by events that for you can be a source of indelible pride, your patrimony, a legacy from which to take the measure of all that honors the memory of your father. Paul and Charlotte race to Berlin to rescue their children, unaware that Rick is carrying a secret roll of film that if discovered could ignite World War III. The taut drama of history, interlaced with the emotional sagas of these marvelously drawn figures, makes for a very satisfying narrative.

Keen to pass through the only opening in the Iron Curtain for a look at the country his mother and he fled, Ulrich enlists Michael (who has his fathera€™s car for the week) and Kit (who may be sweet on him) to pose as a debating team headed for a match in West Berlin.
But these are events that had a different meaning for me, the measure of which, I tell you at the start, is the sadness you may already sense in the space between these words. Highly recommended for most collections.-Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. On their harrowing trip in the sealed shuttle train from the free West to the island city, eastern guards discover a roll of film in the gym bag Ulrich "borrowed" from his high-ranking stepfather, and the trip begins to go disastrously awry.
He plays the cards of his plot perfectly, each new element a revelation, leaving the reader hungrily turning the pages until the riveting story is told and the lesson is learned, that real love is indeed a harsh and dreadful thing.
The three think theya€™ve fast-talked their way out of trouble, but once they cross into the eastern zone they are scooped up by the authorities.
Because your father asked me to, I am telling it to you.People of my generation, ahead of his, saw so little as it actually was then, as if the Manichean division of the world into East and West, bad and good, gave shape also to our most intimate relationships.
A few electrifying days prove enough to transform the lives of these fascinating characters-and the world-forever.
Paul and Charlotte, meanwhile, have used their connections to trace thestudents and begin their own harrowing trip to retrieve them.
An iron curtain ran not just, as Churchill put it, from the Balkans to Trieste, but between those of us who claimed to be grown and in charge and those, like your father and my son, who seemed still so unfinished and, as I thought of them, vulnerable. Novelist and memoirist Carroll, whose 2001 Constantinea€™s Sword was a bestselling analysis of the Roman Catholic Churcha€™s dealings with the Reich, makes excellent use of his firsthand knowledge of the territory, stumbling only slightly on the romances. When Michael was away from me, I often feared that he would get lost, which was my way of fearing, I suppose, that I would lose him. That was presumptively a function of his longtime status as a handicapped child, but then it also became a matter of my efficient pretense that the loss we'd undergone together the year before was more his than mine, as if what I did was for him, never for myself.

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