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An American Requiem: God, My Father & the War That Came Between Us

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  492 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
An American Requiem is the story of one man's coming of age. But more than that, it is a coming to terms with the conflicts that disrupted many families, inflicting personal wounds that were also social, political, and religious. Carroll grew up in a Catholic family that seemed blessed. His father had abandoned his own dream of becoming a priest to rise through the ranks o ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published April 1st 1997 by Mariner Books (first published 1996)
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Eric_W
Apr 07, 2009 Eric_W rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography-memoir
James Carroll is a former priest, son of an air force general, and brother both to a draft resister and an FBI agent whose assignment was to track down draft resisters. James left the priesthood, saddened and sickened by the war in Vietnam and perhaps subconsciously by his father's role in it. This book is, in part, his reconciliation with God and his father - maybe because, in some measure, they were one and the same.

His father was certainly James' idol. He put himself through law school while
...more
Barb Schmidt
Jun 28, 2014 Barb Schmidt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
James Carroll and I have a lot in common. He is three years older than I, which is nothing now that we are in our 70s. We have Catholicism in common, mine eschewed. We have hatred of the Vietnam war in common. I was married to an Air Force fighter pilot in the late 60s and early 70s. He'd been an accounting major at Notre Dame. A trumpet player in the marching band and in a smaller group of talented musicians who played at dances. Who knew this gentle man would turn into a killer? I hated it, an ...more
Wendy Bousfield
May 26, 2013 Wendy Bousfield rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Wendy by: Found at used bookstore
I read this book back-to-back with Kafka's LETTER TO HIS FATHER. Both writers have fathers whose approval they spend their lives seeking, and from whom they are temperamentally and vocation-wise incapable of pleasing. Kafka says: "My writing was all about you." Carroll might say the same.

Joe Carroll left the priesthood to marry Jim's mother, Mary. He became an FBI agent and distinguished himself by capturing Roger "Terrible" Touhy, a Chicago gangster. Through J. Edgar Hoover's influence, Joe be
...more
Cheryl
Aug 18, 2013 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cheryl by: Friends of the Library
Excellent! This highly-readable book is not only interesting but very thought provoking. Brought back a lot of memories and added more dimension to other events from that time. It sparked several serious discussions as well with my own daughter.

I'm glad this book crossed my path. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the Vietnam war and to book clubs that like very well written non-fiction.
Anthony
Jul 16, 2014 Anthony rated it it was amazing
June 21, 2014
A Review by Anthony T. Riggio of James Carroll’s book “An American Requiem, (God, My Father and the War that came between us).
This book was originally published in 1996 and it was obtained through an Amazon, reseller as a used book. I was interested in this book because the author was known to me indirectly through his brother Brian Carroll and having read “Prince of Peace” and the “Sword of Constantine” I enjoyed the author’s style of writing and since this book appeared to me to b
...more
Michele
Sep 24, 2015 Michele rated it liked it
Shelves: bio_autiobio
All of the agonizing issues of the 1960s -- Vietnam, the civil rights act, student activism, etc. -- as perceived by a young man whose father was a high-up in the Pentagon, and who became and then un-became a Catholic priest. A fascinating perspective, particularly now with Pope Francis' emphasis on social justice issues, but a bit marred for me by occasions where the author's descriptions of his emotions felt a bit overwrought or melodramatic. (He's also a poet, which might explain it -- what w ...more
Julie Bauer
Jan 22, 2009 Julie Bauer rated it really liked it
You think you've got pressure from the family? James Carroll was caught in a web of expectations. His father, Gen. Joseph Carroll, left the seminary shortly before being ordained. His mother wants one of her five sons to become a priest to get the family right with the church and God. When his older brother becomes disabled, it is assumed that second son Carroll will enter seminary, which he does. The family drama takes place as the nation goes through the great changes of the 1960's, and Carrol ...more
Marguerite
Jun 26, 2012 Marguerite rated it really liked it
The dynamics in the Carroll family make for interesting reading, on the scale of Homer or Shakespeare. The memoir is more interesting for some of the shared experiences (Air Force life, including a stop in Wiesbaden and dad's two tours in Vietnam, along with theology studies). But, the word "scrupulosity" comes to mind:

"It was no news that I was a sinful human being. A pointed sense of my own fallenness had been attached to my heels like a shadow since my brother, through some fault of mine, had
...more
Beth
This is the memoir of a former American priest whose father was one of the generals responsible for the war in Vietnam.
Becoming a priest, initially, to satisfy his father's and mother's expectations, he became the sort of priest that was so opposite to what they had expected, involved in the anti-war movement and part of the general freeing up of that period of the church.
This is a story about a spoiled kid who accepted what he was told, fulfilled his family expectations and gradually started t
...more
Amy
Oct 25, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it
Though my father was not a general or involved in making history, as James Carroll's father was, I still felt he was telling my story. Perhaps its the overlap of years -- Carroll is a few years older than I am but I lived through many of the same historical events. I remember telling my dad I was against the Vietnam War and had marched in a Peace demonstration. He was horrified; it was un- American in his view to oppose the war. Carroll tells a rich history of the many layers of turbulence in po ...more
Roger Briggs
May 12, 2014 Roger Briggs rated it it was amazing
American Requiem I consider one of the best accounts of family life in the 60s told against the backdrop of the Viet Nam War, Civil Rights, and the political and social upheaval of these times. It is more though a poignant story of a son's search for self and identiy through his father's rejection and coming to terms with the limited possibilities of their reconciliation.
Lindsey
Jan 27, 2014 Lindsey rated it liked it
I finally finished my father-in-law's Vietnam reading list he gave me with An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War that Came Between Us by James Carroll. Carroll was the son of a general tasked with picking targets for American bombs in Vietnam. While his father was making important decisions about the war, Carroll was becoming a priest and a peace activist. This was an insightful look at the strain the war put on a family and the obligations we feel to God, our country and our family.
Joe
Oct 10, 2011 Joe rated it it was ok
This book was not as good as I'd thought it might be, or as it could have been. The subject matter was interesting, and occassionally the author's insights were fairly good, but overall it seemed very self serving and, at the same time, either naive or ignorant. It was fascinating to see the interaction and dynamic in retrospect, but I think the author has still yet to fully acknowledge everything that happened or look at the events from a non-biased perspective.
There were a lot of aspects of t
...more
Ann Quinn
Jan 12, 2014 Ann Quinn rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. If you want to know more about what it was like in America during the Vietnam War, it is packed into this book. If you want to understand Catholicism better--its politics and what it can be for people, what it doesn't have to be (there are some lapsed Catholics in my own family history, so I'm fascinated), you will learn a lot. I'm amazed at how much I learned in 279 pages. I think this should be required reading for every seminarian of every denomination, especially in the DC ...more
Tim
James Carroll's memoir detailing his transformation: personal, religious, and political, and the effect it had on the relationship he had with his father. I have to imagine it hurt to write this book; he holds his father responsible for the deaths of millions due to his involvement in Vietnam, Carroll believes his own father was part of a fascist plot (Carroll's words) to discredit Martin Luther King, Jr. But Caroll, sometimes self-righteous to a fault, has written a beautiful book. I do wonder, ...more
Hulananni
Jun 23, 2014 Hulananni rated it really liked it
Scathing reminder of the futility of war. If you grew up in or around a "Catholic, military" family in the 50s and on you will recognize the turmoil.
Leslie
Apr 06, 2014 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Great book about the history of the time with a behind-the-scenes look from a prominent family while watching their internal unravelings.
Grant
Dec 18, 2014 Grant rated it liked it
Recommended to Grant by: Jane McNeil
This is an interesting historic fiction about the Catholics, Politics, the Capital and the Church, as well as the Military. OK, but just OK. The priest, then not-a-priest father, then the curse, and the priest then not-a-priest son, catholic guilt, the rise of a man to 2 star general in the armed forces from a civilian never having been in the armed forces-all interesting.
The surprise that during Vietnam we considered, always-using the nuke as an option. That was unknown to the American people.
...more
Victoria
Aug 07, 2014 Victoria rated it really liked it
An intensely moving book of father vs. son in one of the most trying of times.
Eric
Oct 04, 2008 Eric rated it really liked it
A poignant narrative. A rare oppurtunity to have our point of view from the son of a powerful man, who himself has dabbled in many places of the world. James Carroll's conflict is that of being the type of person who could address it, his vision is that of having identified it. With clean and introspective prose, Carroll seems to have told it as it is, and not how he wished for it to have been. The inside scoop we get from both the father and son's status could have easily bogged this book down ...more
Beth Caruso
Jun 28, 2008 Beth Caruso rated it really liked it
I was a child during the Vietnam War. I was too young to learn about it in school or understand what happening in our country. So much of this story was news to me. It is an amazing story about the desire to have your parent's love - finding your true self - our country and the Catholic Church. Really a great story. I think the author is a great story teller - at times I wanted more story and less of a history lesson. The final chapters are wonderful. All and all I will remember this story for y ...more
Carey
Jun 25, 2007 Carey rated it it was amazing
This book is the story of the relationship between James Carroll, an anti-war priest (who later leaves the priesthood) and his father, a high-ranking officer in the armed forces. It is one of the most honest stories that I have ever read about one's journey of theological education and the way it changes most of the aspects of one's life, including how one understands and deals with, their family. My favorite sentence -- "[Seminary] was an incubator of my own personal and unwanted revolution."
Tristan
Mar 07, 2016 Tristan rated it it was amazing
This book at many times landed a gut punch right in the feels
Tim Snyder
Aug 21, 2007 Tim Snyder rated it really liked it
A touching autobiography about growing up in the fifties and sixties in the shadow of the bomb and surviving the turmoil of the civil rights/Vietnam war era from someone who was right in the midst of the struggles. At the same time one man's search for his own mission in life and his troubled relationship with his father and his church. Smoothly written with extensive retrospective insights into the dynamics of personal growth and the challenges of being a parent/child.
Kevin
Oct 02, 2007 Kevin rated it it was ok
A book bogged down by people and places that are not for my generation. It felt like a textbook at times. The story is worthwhile to read just difficult for someone who was not around during the Vietnam War and can't feel the atmosphere that surrounded the war to get into it. Yes there is a war going on now but the atmosphere is far far differnt, from what I have read, heard and seen. This book has so much tos ay that it can't develope that atmosphere to well.
Emily Wood
Jan 17, 2012 Emily Wood rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars.
Very good father/son biography. Dad is a general in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and at the same time period the son becomes a priest. The son idolized his dad but due to conflicts over the war the father/son relationship is ruined. The son really became a priest for his Dad and later ends up leaving the priesthood.
Anna Andersen
Dec 04, 2013 Anna Andersen added it
Shelves: bored
I just couldn't get into this book.....maybe it is the way he writes it or something...seemed to go in and out a lot about what he wants to say....I just got to where I was skimming through and still had not found something to grasp my attention.....so I got bored with it....sorry....it got good ratings...but not a book for me.
Madge
Nov 22, 2008 Madge rated it really liked it
Wonderfully told autobio. and how dificult it can be to "leave home". Really moving.

And did you know that Klaus Fuchs, who gave the Russians atom secrets, received 7 years in jail and was then deported to Russia. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were relative minors in the transactions received the death penalty.
Linda
Jun 28, 2012 Linda rated it really liked it
If you lived through the Vietnam War era, then you might also be touched by this book which reminds the reader of how our country, our leaders, and especially our family members who were divided in their opinions about this war. James Carroll tried oh, so very hard, to carry the world on his shoulders.
John Steinbeck
Mar 31, 2008 John Steinbeck rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
Went to see James Carroll speak about a month ago. Couldn't sit through his whole lecture either. Can't really put my finger on it, but the story just wasn't that compelling. Also have a hard time reading books by people that I don't think I would like personally. Seems a bit self righteous and annoying.
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James Carroll was born in Chicago and raised in Washington, D.C. He has been a civil rights worker, an antiwar activist, and a community organizer in Washington and New York. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969 and served as Catholic chaplain at Boston University. Carroll left the priesthood to become a novelist and playwright. He lives in Boston with his wife, the novelist Alexandra Marshal ...more
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