My Fatherís Secret War: A Memoir
Careening down the hill, bike gaining speed, eight-year-old Lucinda Franks lifts her hands from the handlebars and soars, going too fast, into the waiting arms of her father, Tom Franks. Thus begins a fascinating and well-written biography of Lucindaís father, Thomas Edward Franks.
Psychologically wounded during World War II, Tom Franks drew within himself, withdrawing even from his wife and two daughters. Finding solace in the arms of another woman, Tom has no idea the psychological damage he is doing to his family.
Late in Tomís life, his daughter, Lucinda, courageously tries to penetrate her fatherís wounds and recapture the tender man she knew as a child. She knows something happened during the war, but her father wonít talk about it. Lucinda discovered that her father was sent to investigate the first-discovered Nazi extermination camp. A friend remembers that Tom, already shocked, looked down into an extermination pit and saw the naked corpse of a very young girl, eyes fixedly open, staring up at him, a sight that would unnerve any of us.
Through great patience, interrogative sleuthing, and consulting many friends and public records, Lucinda gradually pieces together her fatherís story. Her skill at characterization brings Tom to life: Tom, his wife Lorraine, their younger daughter Barbara, and the other woman Pat. Lucinda brings them alive in vivid detail.
So well written is this book you wonít want to skim, wonít want to set it down. In his last years, Tomís mind gives way to dementia, his memories fading. He forgets that he does not want to talk about the war until Lucinda prods him back into it.
World War II has affected all of us. It changed the course of history. Thereís a relevancy in Tomís story that touches all of us. He might as well be a dearly loved friend of ours. The reader will identify with this father-daughter drama. Just when you begin to wonder: ďHowís this story going to end?Ē (You know Tom is going to die; his daughters somehow carry on). Lucinda puts meaning to her fatherís life. He didnít just disappear into the nothingness from which he came. Heís more than a mere memory: heís a person. There was a purpose to his life just as there is a purpose for all of our lives.
I think you will enjoy this book. You will realize your own worth when you discover the worth of Thomas Edward Franks.