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American Spy

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3.52  ·  Rating details ·  17,902 ratings  ·  2,218 reviews
What if your sense of duty required you to betray the man you love? One woman struggles to choose between her honor and her heart in this enthralling espionage drama that deftly hops between New York and West Africa.

It's 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She's brilliant, but she's also a young black woman working i
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Hardcover, 292 pages
Published February 12th 2019 by Random House
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Karen I am hoping that this story will be continued in a forthcoming book! IMHO, I feel like we are going to see "the rest of the story" in a future book, I…moreI am hoping that this story will be continued in a forthcoming book! IMHO, I feel like we are going to see "the rest of the story" in a future book, I hope!(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Kristine Yes yes yes!! Hope so...so many unanswered questions!! ❤️

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.52  · 
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 ·  17,902 ratings  ·  2,218 reviews


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Sydney
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book felt like a missed opportunity. It was such an interesting premise, I went into it with high hopes. Then it committed the fatal error of being boring. The framework of the book--the way the narrator is telling the story in a journal for her sons--didn't work for me. The writing style ended up being far too reflective, with not enough immediacy. I just felt like there was far too much telling and way too little in the way of showing. Plus there were lots of details in the plot that I fe ...more
Read By RodKelly
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Solid 3.5

There are great things here: a complex protagonist who's a black FBI agent embroiled in a case that becomes more dangerous and violent as time passes. The author explores how sexism affects the main character her at the work place, and also delves into the complicated experience she had growing without her mother, to name a couple of the major themes in this novel.

But overall, the novel suffers from lack of narrative momentum. It's slow going and ineffective at keeping up the suspensefu
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is the last of the Camp TOB books for the Tournament of Books and I thought it was pretty good. It is largely set in Burkina Faso and Martinique, two countries I have not yet had the chance to read books from, and I always enjoy learning more about places. Despite the alternating time periods and the fact that it is a spy novel, it's a pretty slow burn. I set it aside a few times to read other things but was ultimately glad I came back to it. And I loved the ending.

ETA a few quotations:

"I c
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Books on Stereo
Feb 23, 2019 rated it liked it
A mid-tier spy narrative that quickly loses steam after its neck-breaking opening sequence.
Shawna
Nov 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
DNF - 1/3 of the way through. I really wanted to like this book, I just couldn't read it.

Thank you to Edel Weiss for the advanced copy.

I now notice that all of the other reviews are just a summary of the story line, and not about the actual book itself. I appreciate that the author was trying to do something different - she is using a narration where the protagonist is telling a story to her twin boys. The problems come in when the story will go on for a few pages, and she is talking to people
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Nicole O
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, netgalley, arc
I was initially drawn to this book due to its unique plot and strong female protagonist. It's a fictional story rooted in historical truths, and so I figured this book had great potential (similar to what Marlon James did with A Brief History of Seven Killings).

Unfortunately, this novel fell short for me. The story is told both in flashbacks and to her sons in the form of a letter/journal, which presents the author the opportunity to really delve into the character development. Instead - at the
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Kay
Apr 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I feel like I was sold a 6 for a 9. This book has been marketed as a thriller/mystery. It's not. It's closer to historical fiction and I definitely feel that the marketing influenced my final opinion.

The story feels like a diary entry, which it kinda is, but this is no something I was aware of going in. I found myself skipping over parts because I just wanted it to be over. The novel feels more introspective than action or plot driven. While I love a character driven story this one feels, unpol
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Vivian
Apr 29, 2019 marked it as dnf
This has the worst opening paragraph: first person point of view that manages to make what should be a tension-filled moment into a myopic moment of tedium.
I unlocked the safe beneath my desk, grabbed my old service automatic, and crept toward my bedroom doorway, stealthy until I was brought to grief by a Lego Duplo that stung the sole of my foot. I hobbled the rest of the way to the door and crouched behind it.

I have no interest in subsequent insights this individual might have. Duplo, really?
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Chavelli Sulikowska
“the first moment you meet someone are precious, because the data on them is plentiful, and your own subjectivity is yet to interfere…”

I felt sceptical starting this debut novel. That it is applauded by Obama on the cover prompted me to persevere beyond the initial pages which I didn’t find particularly inspiring. I think Wilkinson will mature into a successful author, and as a first novel it was a strong effort. The story is engaging and the language is fluent, though a bit conversational.

It i
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Jill
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
There are many spy novels out there but the best are novels that capture the CIA’s nation destabilization efforts in a compelling and eye-opening new way.

Kudos, then, to Lauren Wilkinson, whose protagonist is Marie Mitchell, a black woman whose parents are a Harlem-born cop and a Martinique-born, FBI-operative mother. Whip smart, congenitally wary, and unable to tolerate deception, Marie is a character unlike others that readers like me have met before.

After not “playing the game” properly at th
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Jessica Jeffers
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a delightful twist on the spy thriller. More to come.
Jiny S
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing

This is best story I’ve ever read that gives black women a voice as a marginalized minority in society. It is also one of the best spy books on my shelves. The storytelling is coherent, cognoscible, and not to mention heartpoundingly intense.

Throughout the narration, political ideologies permeate both the protagonist’s personal life and the on the world’s stage that she is involved in as a result of her job. She has to make so many decisions. What is right or wrong that’s not black and white. W
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Bri
Apr 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Ah, where to even start with this book? With an intriguing and original subject, American Spy examines the life of a Black woman spy from the US who’s sent to essentially ruin the government of Burkina Faso during the Cold War. The perfect opportunity to delve into imperialism, anti-Blackness, and Black American identity during the 80s....YET!

Lots of people who gave this book not-so-good reviews were put off by the narrative style, which I thought was original and interesting. I loved that the
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Katie.dorny
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
This was a 3.5/4 star read for me. I can’t believe it’s not on others people’s radar!

I really enjoyed meeting Marie and getting inside her mind.

We travel with her through childhood, her adolescence and everything that shape her into her current federal agent she is. Moreover, she is the only black woman in the 90’s at her office and that is really explored by the author in an uncomfortable but compelling way.

It’s eye opening and at first I thought it was a bit too simply narrated for me, but th
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Barbara
I listened to the Audible narration of “American Spy”, written by Lauren Wilkinson and narrated by Bahni Turpin. Turpin’s performance is excellent providing a wide range of voices and accents.

This is a spy thriller combined with a bit of historical fiction. The narrator of the story, Marie Mitchell is telling her story for her twin boys. As the story opens, Marie narrowly escapes an assassin’s bullet while her four-year-old boys are sleeping. She flees to Martinique with her sons, where her moth
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Reggie
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
People work tirelessly to obtain hard-won goals. In large part due to promises that lay on the other end of countless hours of blood, sweat & tears. The grass is allegedly greener on the other side of those 10,000 hours.

It makes you wonder what happens when a jam is the only thing awaiting you on the other side of that 10,000. A jam that pits you against yourself and what you claim to believe in. But also a jam that gets you in close contact with the one man who can give you definitive informati
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switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
What initially attracted me to this book were two things—the artful, vibrant cover and the title. I’m not a fan of genre spy novels like Bourne Identity, but prefer when the spy content is linked to something deeper and more thematic, such as in Mailer’s HARLOT’S GHOST, DeLillo’s LIBRA, and, more recently, Lea Carpenter’s RED WHITE BLUE. Not that all good spy novels have to have intellectual heft, but in order to engage me, I want to feel something personal in the pages. And this is a genuinely ...more
Julie Christine
After fending off an attempted assassination, former FBI agent Marie Mitchell flees with her young twin sons to the Caribbean island of Martinique, where her mother lives. She begins a letter to her boys, "I'm writing this to give you honest answers to the questions I hazard to guess you'll ask while you're growing up. I'm writing it all down here just in case I'm not around to tell you."

The letter takes the reader back through time to chronicle Marie's childhood in Harlem, her career as a Fed
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La Tonya  Jordan
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to La Tonya by: GO On Girl Book Club!
Shelves: good-read
The beginning of this book drags. After the first 100 pages, it starts to get interesting. I like Marie and Helene characters. The complete idea of black women spies is captivating. For Marie to live out Helene dream of being a spy to make the world a better place to live is the fantasy. She later found out she was only being complicit in making the world more unsafe with the United States of America's blessing. She takes this disappointment and starts a journal to leave for her twin son's in ca ...more
Rincey
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poc-author
3.5 stars
Michelle
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Revised Review 10/2018:

4 Stars

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for providing me an advance copy of this book. I greatly appreciate the opportunity and below have provided an unbiased review.

Marie Mitchell is an FBI agent who while extremely qualified, is consistently passed over for high profile assignments. When you work for the FBI in the 1980's, you're living in a man's world. While buried in paperwork, she is left to wonder when her opportunity will come. One day, she is approached by
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Kym Moore
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
It took me a minute to get past the flow of the opening narrative until I realized that Marie Mitchell, an intelligence officer with the FBI was basically writing a journal to her sons, chronicling the ebb and flow of her life personally, her relationships and the deception behind her undercover work in a shady task force. I felt bad for her and her sister Helene when their mother walked out on them when they were young and their father raised them.

Even though I have yet to read the spy novels b
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Lata
I enjoyed this a lot. Part spy story, but also so much more, with essentially a giant letter to main character Marie’s sons framing this story.
This book has so much going on in it, as Marie describes different periods of her past to her sons, explaining how she got to where she did. There are complicated family dynamics, the experience of growing up terrified of a nuclear war, the dual nature of the judicial system based on one’s skin colour, being sidelined and constantly diminished at work fo
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Sarah
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
DNF at 20%. I wanted to love this--the blurb sounds amazing--but I was too bored by the time I quit to have patience to get to the actual story. There was too much time spent on the main character's childhood and early life, and no real plot had yet emerged.

I DNF ruthlessly and usually don't have a lot of patience for books that don't suck me in pretty quickly, but based on other reviews it seems likely this book will be rewarding for readers who are more patient than I am.

*I received a free AR
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Amanda
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this twist on the typical spy novel. I loved Marie and her story. I didn’t really know much about the actual history so I I had to do some googling. Well written and engaging. Definitely recommend.
Katie Long
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set during the Cold War while the US was engaging in troubling covert operations to stop the spread of Communism in West Africa. The description (and of course the title) makes it sound like a spy thriller, and to a certain extent that’s what it is, but that was the least interesting part to me. What engaged me the most was Marie’s voice and perspective as a Black woman in white man’s profession. The way she is cautious and plays along when she needs to, but never allows the people who underesti ...more
Rachel | rach.b.reads
I'll start by saying that this book wasn't great. I wanted it to be, but it was not. However, it gets 3 stars for me for some really refreshing originality.

One of the reasons I was so excited to pick this book up in the first place is the unique premise. It's the 1980s, and Marie is a black female FBI agent with a troubled past and big ambition. She's not really getting anywhere in her FBI career and ends up working for the CIA in Africa, trying to de-stabilize an authoritarian, Communist gover
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Taryn
I’ve never gotten into spy novels because I don’t really want more alpha white male energy in my life, but THIS spy novel is about a black woman working undercover in the 1980s! Now that I can get behind. Marie is sent to Burkina Faso to undermine the Communist leader Thomas Sankara, but her goals get clouded when she gets to know the man behind the image. The book is written as a letter to her children, which is a really effective device, and I swear I couldn’t tell from one page to the next wh ...more
Lulu
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Misleading synopsis, but the story we did get was pretty good. Not the action packed thriller I was expecting. More of a memoir.
Karen (idleutopia_reads)
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Immersing myself into the world of American Spy was an experience unlike any other. It was thrilling from beginning to end. I loved the tapestry of words that Lauren Wilkinson created. She had me hooked from the beginning with her story of a suburban mom who one night gets attacked in her own home and kills the intruder. So begins a story that takes us towards an escape and flashes back to tell the story of Marie Mitchell, an intelligence officer with the FBI. She’s pulled into an intricate web ...more
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Lauren Wilkinson earned an MFA in fiction and literary translation from Columbia University, and has taught writing at Columbia and the Fashion Institute of Technology. She was a 2013 Center for Fiction Emerging Writer’s Fellow, and has also received support from the MacDowell Colony and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. Lauren grew up in New York and lives on the Lower East Side. American Sp ...more

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“The first few moments after you meet someone are precious, because the data on them is plentiful and your own subjectivity has yet to interfere.” 9 likes
“I don’t like to say what I’ve read. That’s how you disclose the most about yourself.” 3 likes
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