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Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  106 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Amaryllis Fox's riveting memoir tells the story of her ten years in the most elite clandestine ops unit of the CIA, hunting the world's most dangerous terrorists in sixteen countries while marrying and giving birth to a daughter

Amaryllis Fox was in her last year as an undergraduate at Oxford studying theology and international law when her writing mentor Daniel Pearl was
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  106 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
More than likely this memoir will be a nonfiction bestseller in 2020. As a former CIA super spy, Fox has stellar media connections and it certainly won’t hurt that she is married to a member of the Kennedy family. The pace is a bit too brisk and the writing is rather pedestrian but she does succeed in providing a glimpse into her world during the time she was working within the most dangerous countries in the world. I will sleep a bit better knowing these spooks are on duty trying to make the wo ...more

I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. Usually, with 'memoirs' surrounding war and violence, I find that I lose interest quickly either out of repetitiveness or because the events are tough to swallow. Life Undercover was nothing like that at all. It was very much about the strain that being an undercover agent had on Fox's relationships with colleagues, with men, and with her family.

It was moving in every way, particularly from the halfway point where she talks
Brandon Forsyth
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
A real-life ALIAS, with plenty to say on geopolitics and motherhood and the nature of secrets. I’m in awe of Amaryllis Fox.
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The spy who prevented a nuclear attack with a bottle of clove oil...

This is the absolutely riveting story of a modern day spy, a real life James Bond, although, as she notes, Bond is ridiculous; in the real world of espionage, "one street chase and my cover is blown for life." This is the story of how Ms. Fox became a spy, what that life cost her and what it gained, and why she left.

This memoir exposes so many secret lives, all at once. Ms Fox talks about being recruited
Margo Tanenbaum
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir, espionage, adult
This new memoir is a well written account of what it's like as a young woman to be recruited by the CIA and then to serve as a top secret undercover officer. While I found the book engrossing, I found the author's attitude in the book to be very irritating--I wish I could have her confidence in the US strategies abroad. In reading her book, you might think that the US always takes the moral high road--we are good, the other guys are bad, etc. The world is not that simplistic. Ms. Fox is clearly ...more
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is fricking fabulous. What were you doing at 21? by the time Amaryllis was 21/22, she was working as an analyst for the CIA, and also finishing off her degree at Georgetown too. But not only is this an insight into being an operative, but it also unveils her, as she shares her childhood and life outside of CIA. I was captivated by this book, and how the experiences in her life have shaped who she was.

Lara Oliver
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Picked this arc up at ALA Annual Conference. Page-turner of a memoir by a brave and brilliant woman.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A super interesting insight into the life of an undercover CIA agent. It reads like a tense thriller in parts. I sort of badly want to be her but know I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
When it is hot as heck outside and there is nothing cool to do but reading as everything else makes you end up a sweaty mess, it is the perfect day for a speed reader.

I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

Amaryllis Fox's riveting memoir tells the story of her ten years in the most elite
Jessica Doyle
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting, exciting, and full of mind blowing descriptions of CIA training practices and real life missions. Pick up Life Undercover and go on this journey with Amaryllis - you won't regret it!
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: female
Taught to be aware of the world and all its shakers, Amaryllis Fox seems to have been in training for the CIA her whole life. From her expat childhood to guns, bombs, and Al-Qaeda amidst marriage and parenting one can only feel a bit laissez faire in comparison, and vicariously exhilarated. Life Undercover is the very meaning of a life well-lived.
James Beggarly
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
While not the most accomplished writer, she does have an amazing story to tell and the conclusions and lessons she shares are invaluable.
I first became aware of Amaryllis Fox after watching the TV show American Ripper a few summers ago. She seemed like such a fascinating person, so when I learned she was coming out with a memoir about her time in the CIA I knew I had to read it. It did not disappoint!

Fox takes us through her rather unconventional childhood to her college years, where she develops an algorithm to predict the likelihood of a terrorist attack in any given location. Naturally this piques the interest of the CIA, who
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Life Undercover opened up a whole new world to me. I got it through the Goodreads giveaway and may not have picked it on my own. I have seen CIA representations on TV, of course, but this was true. Fox's life growing up was one of independence and concern for others--and political safety in our troubled world. She spent 8 years in the CIA hunting terrorists and working to prevent the use of dirty bombs. Having to become a different person in her role as a spy was certainly challenging. She discu ...more
Mary Brown
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read fiction more than non-fiction, but, with all the media interest in operatives and the CIA, I decided to find out how CIA people really work, and chose to read this book. I am so glad I did! Not only dd I learn about the strategies and techniques of undercover operatives, but I saw how one felt immersed in whole new identities. Amaryllis Fox joined the CIA as a young woman and eventually became one of the most complex undercover agents. In spite of all the ugliness she saw and dangers she ...more
Aldo J. Marchioni

What a great book. The author is a special person. Bearing the gift of a special childhood, she brings it to fruition within the CIA. This memoir is about how she does it, how the CIA enables her to do it, how difficult it is to balance her personal and professional life, how difficult it is to effect change with lives on the line, and how to know when the job of a CIA operative is done both personally and professionally. The book provides great insight into the world of espionage, the
Elissa Sweet
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In Life Undercover, Amaryllis Fox tells her story of being recruited into the CIA at age 21 and eventually becoming an undercover spy. The book is a page-turning, exciting and ultimately heartwarming portrait of a woman trying to bring peace to the world from her role inside the CIA. In her meetings with known terrorists, she approaches them from a place of humanity, often befriending and sometimes turning some of the hardest arms dealers in the business to her side. The book is peppered with fa ...more
Linda Bond
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My goodness – I had no idea a biography could be this engaging, exciting and memorable! The author spent nearly a decade working undercover for the CIA. What she learned allows her to share important and timely information where she speaks around the world, and as a contributor on news shows. Read this up-close-and-personal look at the face of terrorists and other bad nasties and you’ll never view the nightly news the same way again. I learned so much I didn’t know. My thanks to Ms. Fox for enli ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-mt-bookpile
Ms Fox does a great job showing what life can be like for those working for the CIA, particularly those who work in the undercover area - the pressures on your personal life and how the need to pretend to be a "normal" person can lead to some dissociative experiences. The CIA's hot dog machine was one of the many tidbits that brought humor and life to what could have been a relatively dry book. For teens thinking about a career like this, it might be a cautionary read. For others, an great peek ...more
Jun 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, non-fiction
It's a highly interesting story that reads like it's on fast-forward. I so desperately wanted this book to slow down, take its time, and properly build up into an important message! Yes, "we're all human," that's great, but truly, give me more of the conflict of your beliefs against your training; your triumphs over adversity; all of the emotional turmoil you went through. I feel like "Life Undercover" only skims the surface of a Marianas Trench of personal growth and development.
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A real spy story! I heard the author speak at the Library Reads breakfast at the ALA Annual Conference.

I realize that a memoir is not an autobiography -- a memoir is about a part of one's life, not the entirety of it (up to the time of writing, of course!) -- but there's a lot she doesn't mention (her third husband is Robert Kennedy III though she kept her second husband's name). I'm googling to find out the Rest of the Story.
Laura Kay
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Life Under cover is an astute portrayal on the human experience of “becoming.” Amaryllis Fox provides stark details of the vulnerability of her young life, allowing you in on all the secrets. Her journey hits you in all the feels as you tumble around the world as her inept sidekick.

I could not put this adventurous read down because despite all the differences in my life versus Fox’s, her inner desires, questions, and motivations resonate loudly with me.
Sonia Reppe
Jul 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Some parts were interesting but I couldn't relate to her life at all and mostly it was hard to follow. Obviously intelligent and brave, Fox had a very interesting and important job in the CIA, and the threats of terrorists attacks are real, and I'm not down-playing that; but I'm not that into spy stuff. The most enjoyable part to me was her younger years, and what led to her joining the CIA.
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memiors
ARC from ALA.
My copy is filled with little post it flags marking sections or quotes that I found really interesting or that spoke to me. If I’d had time off from work this is a book I would have devoured in a day or two.
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, memoir
I received a free e-galley copy through NetGalley from the publisher.

Review will be posted shortly.

Recommended for public libraries and book clubs.
Joyce Schiff
Oct 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting revelation of becoming a undercover agent though very superficial. Fast read.
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read-books
Interesting quick read
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A quick, engaging read on a fascinating subject.
Gerard Villegas
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm a former female CIA agent and I'm married to a Kennedy. Read my memoir bitches!
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a well written real life spy story that I got through very quickly. A little jargon at times and not quite as exciting as I’d hoped, but still— well done.
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