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Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  2,396 ratings  ·  314 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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Woman Reading I didn't question her honesty while reading her memoir. But once I finished it and then googled her, I do suspect her truthfulness. My review has more…moreI didn't question her honesty while reading her memoir. But once I finished it and then googled her, I do suspect her truthfulness. My review has more details -

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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 ...more
Margo Tanenbaum
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult, memoir, espionage
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
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 by the CIA while still
Woman Reading
3 Stars - Leading a double life for the CIA exacted an emotional toll but provided a valued life lesson

In an October 2019 NPR article, “The War on Terrorism, Through the Eyes of 3 Women in the CIA,” this was one of three books recently published and cited. I chose The Targeter by Nada Bakos (to be reviewed later) and Life Undercover because I was curious about not only on how does one become a spook but what does a foreign intelligence officer actually do? Has this position been glorified by

I wassopleasantly 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 about her decision to
Oct 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
It's a bit thin for a memoir. Already a short book, it is heavily padded with stories from her childhood. There's not enough from her time at the CIA. What we do get feels a bit simplistic, not introspective, especially her final epiphany. I'm a bit skeptical of some of the situations, too; are we really supposed to believe that nuclear arms dealers were dealing with an American woman in her mid-twenties, without guessing that she's a government agent? Maybe it was all a scam.

> Many of the
Carmen Liffengren
Oct 21, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

I wasn't exactly expecting Sydney Bristow and Alias or anything like that, but that's kind of what I got (minus the Rambaldi Device). Fox led a most impressive and unique life. At 21, she was recruited by the CIA and fast-tracked into ops training. I could almost see the film montage of that particularly grueling training. I was keenly fascinated by the chess-like maneuvering that Fox employs juggling intelligence, contacts, classified info, and targets. What I really wanted more of was
Randal White
Wow! I loved this book. How in the world did the author get it past the censors at the CIA?
Quickly moving, well written, intriguing story.
The author has an amazing story to tell. And tells it masterfully. So much better than the typical “I did all these great and dangerous things in my career, but due to national security, I can’t tell you about them” book of this type. No, she tells the stories, warts and all. And bares her soul, telling of her own struggles, mistakes, and misgivings. And the
Donald Powell
Dec 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, government
An interesting book about a very young agent of the Central Intelligence Agency. She is obviously very intelligent, well read and dedicated Makes me proud that such folks are selected for such duty. She left the work after a fairly short term and her ultimate message is one of peace and reconciliation. Very laudable.
Mal Warwick
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Most of us know what little we know about the work of the CIA from novels. Of course, much of that, perhaps most of it, is fanciful. Former CIA officers do write memoirs from time to time, but often, as the Washington Post noted (June 4, 2012), they write to "settle scores about spies." And, as the New York Times revealed (March 15, 2005) in "Ex-Spies Tell It All," their portrait of the Central Intelligence Agency is sometimes "none too flattering." It's refreshing, then, to encounter a memoir ...more
Recruited at a very young age, Amaryllis Fox reveals life undercover in the utmost elite clandestine unit of the CIA. Although she has a distinct talent for writing the written word, lyrical at times, the story often becomes choppy and segmented. Still, extremely interesting and engaging. She is a brilliant narrator if listening to the audiobook.
Nov 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book drove me crazy. It was sloppy and full of things that were way beyond belief. ie. Her high school class went to Burma and when they were leaving she told the teacher she did not want to leave so she stayed by herself with less then $100 on her. She then went to meet with Aung Sun Suu Ki. She took a videtape and snuck it out in her snapper. Right....This reads more like a Forest Gump episode then anything else. I did wonder how the CIA would allow a book to get out with their secrets ...more
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2019, memoirs
I always like reading others' reviews, because it helps me see if my views are outliers or not (not that it matters!). I didn't get the sense that Fox believes the CIA's the "only truth" at all. I thought it was pretty clear she thinks peace is the "truth" (in a sense), and that humanity, and treating others like they're humans, is the best way to go about achieving said peace.

I mean, obviously, this may not apply to all, but isn't peace what some/most religious sects, etc. purport to want to
Heather Blair
Edward Conley
Not up to the hype

No where as interesting as predicted. Writing not up making it suspenseful or gripping. Not worth the cost or the effort read.
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 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.
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I could not put this book down! Life Undercover is exhilarating, intimate, and fiercely intelligent. It is a riveting narrative of compassion, revealing that the path to peace is through understanding the common humanity in us all. Amaryllis Fox records her extraordinary life of astonishing courage and passion. Long story short- she spent a decade with the spy agency (recruited at the young age of 21), traveling the world, posing as an art dealer while she recruited arms dealers as assets and ...more
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I saw the author on a docuseries about Jack The Ripper a couple of years ago. I was fascinated that she was retired from the CIA and fairly young AND a female. So I was super excited to see she had written a memoir about her experience. I feel like I barely had it together at 22. Ms. Fox was studying at Oxford, wrote a logarithm to catch terrorists, and was recruited and trained by the CIA to go deep undercover in war-torn Middle East. She is a real-life Carrie Mathison for you Homeland series ...more
Kris Springer
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
A great book to start 2020. Fox writes about her interest in world politics and how developing an algorithm to identify likely terrorist safe havens while doing a graduate degree at Georgetown caught the attention of the CIA. Fox is an excellent writer, keeping the reader's interest in both her personal life from childhood forward and her work to prevent terrorist events by recruiting contacts in the terrorist organizations. Fox walked an incredible tightrope in all parts of her life. Reminded ...more
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2019
Very fascinating and well-written memoir about the author's career at the CIA. (Great audiobook listen). In fact Fox's entire childhood was interesting and, as one would expect, absolutely led to her career. That she is brilliant, curious, and compassionate shines through. It is pretty short, so at times things are skipped over or otherwise breezed past, especially at the end, though I really appreciated the interesting perspective of living in fiction that she shares.

Fox does at times come
Dennis Hogan
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just finished Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA by Amaryllis Fox, the story of a young woman who joined the CIA after graduating from college, motivated by the September 11 tragedy. A gifted writer who knew personally Danny Pearl, the Wall Stree Journal reporter beheaded by extremists. This book is less james Bondish and more about the human impact from living a lie in the service of your country. What a remarkable young woman! She gave birth while deployed under cover as an art dealer ...more
John McDonald
Oct 27, 2019 rated it liked it
In what must be a heavily edited book, Ms. Fox takes on her journey as an NOC (nonofficial cover), an operations specialist for the the CIA which substantially focuses on a few aspects of her training, her marriage to a special operations CIA officer, her pregnancy and the birth of her child, and a single long term episode trying to turn 'Jakob', a small times arms dealer, into an agency informant.
The work is heavy with the author's thoughts and emotions, especially those involving her
Ericka Clouther
There is some stuff, particularly when she is in high school, that is difficult to wrap my mind around. But overall a very interesting book that inspires a lot of thought about what our foreign policy and how much we ask of our intelligence agency public servants.
Nov 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
Of course, if she were a real CIA operative she would never have a book out telling everyone she was. BUSTED!! She's no better than that other bogus fake-spy of medialand who wrote that TV show called "The Americans" and got busted for that phony trash, too. This one even stars on her own garbage imported historical revision propaganda TV show called... wait for it... "American Ripper". Made-up junk from cover to cover. In the old days, writers used to write pulp fiction, but it at least ...more
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: friend-list
The other side of the CIA. We see spy movies with glamours trappings and/or grueling realities. But this memoir looks at the story behind it all. Why does someone choose that life of service? What is the motivation? And in this case, what is the heart telling them? This is more than her story. This is an examination of how we should all be thinking about how we can make this a better world.

Added bonus, author reads for the audio version. Well done.
Bill Hope
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Disappointed. Did not ring true.
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
This book was amazing, or I should say Amaryllis Fox's life was amazing! (at least the first part.) After reading the book I know she will go on and do more great things for the world.

The book was very readable, and felt like a thriller at times. And with thrillers, there is a lack of character development as it slows down the story. Here I wanted it to slow down and provide us more. I wanted more of her personal relationships, particularly with the husbands, and why with the second one they
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.
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