Monday, December 19, 2016

Code Name: Papa

27111394Who'd have thought a bright, but fairly ordinary young man from middle class America who got just above average grades, dated the same girl throughout high school and went to church most Sundays, would grow up to eventually head a very secretive band of brave individuals--both men and women--who regularly put their lives on the line because they wanted to protect the rest of you. Yet that's what we did, often sacrificing our personal lives (four marriages for me, all in the book) and our health (countless broken bones, major surgeries, even death) to do it.

Meanwhile you're just going to have to call me "Papa" like everyone else around the globe has through most of those wildly unpredictable and dangerous years.

*May Contain Spoilers*

John Murray, which I presume may not be the real name of the author, shares the story of his life as the participant and the head of a covert operation in his book, Code Name: Papa - My Extraordinary Life While Hiding in Plain Sight. The missions that this group were assigned were not necessarily illegal and were believed to be in pursuit of the greater good. Yet, death and disaster hang over them all, giving readers a glimpse into what leading a double life as a secret agent of justice could be like. 

The stories shared within this book are like memories, passed down orally, from a grandfather to a diary or a dear friend. The book doesn't read like a typical novel. It reads like a transcription from some lost recording. John is the narrator of the book, sharing how he became part of this unnamed group, how he was chosen to lead it, and the various missions that were completed under his management. Of course, for this specific job, John had to be fearless, brave, trusting, loyal, and secretive. Though he doesn't ask the reader to like him, or to understand him, readers will have a sense of both by the end of the book. It's disturbing that he took part in so much death in order to save countless others, including individuals and countries. However, it's written, or shared rather, in such a way that it remains unemotional. The book is an account of events. It doesn't try to bring you to a certain conclusion or cast the stories in a better, or worse, light. It just is. That makes it both intriguing and difficult to relate to the characters. 

The character I felt most connected to wasn't a main figure, but simply a member of the group: Nancy. She seemed like a no-nonsense kind of woman who loved her husband. Her direction to have a hysterectomy due to the field of work was a little horrifying and appalling. This created a tangible thread that I could connect to her through, as a woman and as a wife. And then she is left as the loose end of Murray's life. Her death a mystery that he never solved. I feel that other readers could discover these threads that connect them to one or more of the characters, but as I previously said, the book isn't written to give the readers a connection. It's written as a memory. Something that happened, seemingly separate from its audience. 

The story line of Code Name: Papa follows the work of John and his team members through decades of work. It details assignments like a resume, the people linking the missions together. Though intriguing and entertaining, the connection to the characters falls a little short. I think readers will enjoy this book, but not feel any strong ties to it once it's finished. However, for those readers who may have more of an experience with this sort of work, perhaps the connections will pop out in a more defined way. I'd recommend this book to readers who enjoy the genres of military, covert operations, and adventure. Perhaps even those who like a good thriller, as some situations are most definitely thrilling. 

Rating: 3/5 Cups

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