Tag Archives: 9/11

Book Review: The Unexpected Spy: True Story Ripped from Today’s Headlines

The Unexpected Spy

By Tracy Walder; Jessica Anya Blau

Tracy Walder began life with hypotonia, known as a “floppy baby syndrome”. The odds of her walking were nearly impossible, and the odds of her becoming a dancer, a sorority girl, a CIA agent or an FBI agent were too crazy to consider. Yet, that is exactly what she did. But not without determination, hard work and confidence in herself.

Her mother can be credited with never giving up when doctors did. She worked with Tracy until she got stronger and finally walked on her own. Unfortunately, the kids at school were not kind to her. She had few friends and kept to herself. Her mind was and is brilliant, so it was no surprise that she entered USC and became a member of a sorority. What does come as a surprise to her and everyone else is that on a whim she filled out a card at a job fair for the CIA. Even more surprising is they called her back and recruited her.

The CIA was intense, but Tracy loved the fact that she was making a difference even if no one would ever be able to know the specifics of her job. But the intensity became too much, 9/11 weighed heavily on her and tracking terrorists left her sleepless. When she saw recruiting literature for the FBI she thought about having a home and family instead of the travel the CIA required. Again, she sent in her resume and was recruited. But the FBI has a different mindset when it comes to women operatives. After a few years, she decided to leave the bureau and begin the career she had dreamed about since she was a child, teaching.

Tracy’s fascinating story gives readers an inside glimpse of the CIA, FBI and what it is to be a woman in these male dominated professions. Part of her story has been redacted, there are many pages with ~~~~~~~~~~  in place of words. These signify information that is classified. Tracy submitted The Unexpected Spy to the CIA’s Publications Review Board. It was approved with the aforementioned redactions.

The Unexpected Spy reads like a spy novel, but is so much more impactful to the reader because it is based upon her life and the true events in our recent history. I loved it and am in awe of this courageous and adventurous woman.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Dear Zoe by Philip Beard – Heart-Breaking But Beautiful Novel

Dear ZoeDear Zoe

By Philip Beard

196 pages

September 11, 2001 was a tragic day in U.S. history. Tess’ three-year-old sister Zoe died that day, just as countless others did. Many died in the terrorist attack, but others like Zoe died in other places where the magnitude of their death only devastated a family, not a nation. But each and every one are tragedies nonetheless.

In Dear Zoe, fifteen-year-old Tess begins to write a letter to the little sister who will never read it. She tells Zoe little things about her life that she may have told her when she got older. Like how they decided as a family to name her Zoe. She also tells her about how the family she left is coping with the hole left in their lives when Zoe died.

Tess is actually Zoe’s step-sister. Her mom and step-father married when Tess was young, after her mom divorced her real dad, who still plays a part in Tess’ life. He isn’t necessarily a bad person, but is more of a dreamer and sometimes a schemer who always finds a reason not to work.

David, Tess’ step-father, is a hard working family man who loves her. He didn’t really know much about being a father, but got better at it as the family grew with two more daughters, Emily and Zoe. Tess always thought of Em and Zoe as her sisters, never “half” or “step”, loving them both with her whole heart.

After Zoe’s accident the little family imploded. The only one that seemed to be “normal” was Em. The seven-year-old has always been wise beyond her years, but losing the little sister she adored and watching the rest of her fragile family float away from her was way too much for a first grader to handle.

This book is quite possibly one of the best books I have ever read. The underlying sadness of Zoe’s death mixed with the joy she brought to the family in her three short years is heart-breakingly beautiful. Now Tess has to grow up fast and could easily take the wrong path when it is practically dropped in her lap.

Em is the one that broke my heart. She was so lost without anyone to tell her life would be ok I wanted to bring her home to keep her safe until her family was well enough to do it themselves. Em made me cry more than once as she watched her family disengage from the life she knew and she was too small to get it back.

Beard is an extraordinary author. He creates characters that are so well developed they don’t just seem real; they ARE real to the reader. Tess grows up in the year it takes her to write this love letter to Zoe, and it is not without pain. We are swept along through her loss of innocence, hoping she will make it through this personal journey without too many scars.

This is Beard’s first book, and has since written two more, Lost in the Garden and Swing. I’ve read Swing and plan to order Lost in the Garden today. It is rare to find an author that can write in so many different voices and make all of them come to life. The stories he tells are rich and full, giving the reader enough details to pull you into the world he has created with his words without a hint of slowing the flow of the intricately beautiful plot.

I read a lot of books. Only a handful of authors amaze me. Philip Beard is one of them.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under 9/11, Book Review, coming of age, coping, debut novel, family, Philip Beard