Review: Breaking the Code: A Daughter’s Journey into Her Father’s Secret War by Karen Fisher-Alaniz

Breaking the Code by Karen Fisher-Alaniz

Published November 1st 2011 by Sourcebooks.

* In compliance with FTC guidelines, it should be noted that I received the book for free through NetGalley.

Try as we may, we can never really know what it feels like to be in a war, leaving home with just a few things; leaving absolutely everything that brings us comfort and job.  We can never really know what it means to completely lose control over even the more rudimentary of things. – Karen Fisher-Alaniz.

I’ve always loved reading stories about war, may they be from history books or more personal memoirs.  Two of my favorite books ever are from the military non-fiction genre.  We often see it on the news; we see the boots on the ground as one “force”.  But each member of that team has his own story to tell.  Stories of survival, brotherhood, strength, and bravery…

Breaking the Code is a journey.  A journey of a father and a daughter through memories.  On his 81st birthday, Murray Fisher gives his youngest daughter, Karen (the author), notebooks filled with his letters from World War II.  Karen grew up hearing her father’s stories over and over until she outgrew his tales of conflict and combat.  As she began reading through and transcribing these letters, she realizes there was more to her father’s stories.

It started out as a trip down memory lane.  As Karen reads her father’s letters, it paints a picture of his time in the Navy.  She remembers her stories but together with the letters, she begins to appreciate them more.  Then it becomes more of Karen’s journey of discovery.  What really happened out there?  What are the things her father hasn’t told her?  What is the story behind the story?

It would have been great to see some of his family’s letters to him.  One of the most touching parts was where Karen realized why her grandmother kept all of Murray’s letters in an album.  It could be her last correspondence with her son.  What did she write to her son?  You can tell so much in what a person writes… the tone, the feeling.

It was very well-written.  And honest.  I loved that the most about this book.  There were so much emotion.  And you can tell that there is a lot of love in these pages.  It is not just a war memoir… it is a personal family history.

Rating: 4/5.

Recommendation:  It is a deeply touching journey of a father and daughter.  If you know someone who has been through a war – WWII, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. – this will definitely hit close to home.

Get you copy here.

PS: My grandfather was in the Philippine Navy.  Although he did not see much combat, he had his stories.  As a kid, I thought his travels were great adventures… FUN times.  But as I grew older, I realized what a war is and how it affects not only the boots on the ground, but the families the men and women leave behind.  I also realized that he was sugarcoating some parts of his stories for my young ears.  My grandfather didn’t have letters but his stories live on in my memories.  It means a lot to me that I post this today because exactly one year ago, he passed away.  He is sorely missed and will never ever be forgotten.



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