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Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  750 ratings  ·  108 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
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Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by Knopf
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    Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA
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    Release date: Oct 15, 2019
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    Amaryllis Fox was in her last year as an undergraduate at Oxford studying theolo
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    Community Reviews

    Showing 1-30
    Average rating 3.93  · 
    Rating details
     ·  750 ratings  ·  108 reviews


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    Tammy
    Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    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
    Jasmine
    4.5/5

    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
    ...more
    Robyn
    Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    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
    ...more
    Carmen Liffengren
    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 her adjustment(minus
    ...more
    Margo Tanenbaum
    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
    Lisa
    Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    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.



    Brandon Forsyth
    Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    A real-life ALIAS, with plenty to say on geopolitics and motherhood and the nature of secrets. I’m in awe of Amaryllis Fox.
    Shannon
    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.
    Ben
    Oct 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    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 d
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    Lara Oliver
    Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Picked this arc up at ALA Annual Conference. Page-turner of a memoir by a brave and brilliant woman.
    Janet
    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
    ...more
    Lindsey
    Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    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 tr ...more
    Shary
    This one is hard for me to review. As far as a page turner that explores the internal conflict as well as external activities of a CIA officer, 5 stars, especially with regard to Fox's desire for connection versus conflict. But I've listened to an interview and read articles about the book, and I have concerns. Articles say she didn't wait for the CIA to clear the book, in violation of the non-disclosure agreement that every agency officer must sign. (That process moves along like a glacier, app ...more
    Jenni
    Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    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.
    David
    Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Inside the life of a real CIA agent

    Fascinating look at how a CIA agent is built. She was certainly meant for this job, starting with her family upbringing, travels to Europe and inquisitive mind.

    I can only imagine the stories she didn’t (or couldn’t) tell.

    Glad she got out alive, with her wits, and is using her experience to try to make the world a better place.
    Jessica Doyle
    Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    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!
    Richard Meehan
    Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Wish I could give it 4 1/2 stars. A fast read. Personal account of working in the CIA by a woman and mother.
    Marley Hoggatt
    She’s like the Marianne Williamson of the CIA.

    I liked this book. I was enthralled. But I don’t think she should have revealed some of this information to the general public.
    Creager
    Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    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.
    Mal Warwick
    Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    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 w ...more
    Rebecca
    Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    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.
    James Beggarly
    Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    While not the most accomplished writer, she does have an amazing story to tell and the conclusions and lessons she shares are invaluable.
    John McDonald
    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 marriage
    ...more
    Ryan Lackey
    Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Good memoir of a career in the clandestine service of CIA by someone who seemed to get into it very young (family background, plus a high school project to learn about Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi...). There were elements fictionalized to protect sources/methods, but overall it was consistent with what I knew about the backgrounds of those who joined CIA in the late 90s/00s and how the organization has changed post cold war (basically, a pretty massive schism between paramilitary/military ops an ...more
    Dana
    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
    ...more
    Avid
    Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    3.5 stars. I never really got on board with this. The writing itself was mediocre, and everything felt really rushed and superficial. The extensive training that it must have taken to get her from a completely naive 22-year-old to a savvy, multi-lingual, CIA operative (the “growing up” part mentioned in the subtitle) was never really covered. Or how she progressed emotionally to someone who’s comfortable with throwing herself into unknown situations in myriad foreign countries, casually and expe ...more
    George
    Nov 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    It's a breezy read, for a CIA memoir.

    Given the restrictions of her work and the restrictions the CIA places on books published by past employees, I suppose its not shocking to see the book be relatively thin. It's basically a brief chronology of her upbringing, how she came to the attention of CIA (and MI6), and how she was ultimately recruited and trained. And her eventual retirement.

    There's little in there in terms of operational details, which again isn't really surpri
    ...more
    S
    Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: non-fiction, identity
    This was a fast, very interesting read... but not a very engaging one. It is easy to believe that she wrote a lot of straightforward reports in the course of her job, since that is very much the way this reads - concise, matter-of-fact, skipping over a lot of the emotional bits or introspection that would humanize things more.
    It came across as totally believable that a person who grew up like she did would end up in the CIA (!! but who grows up like that?! swimming races under the iced pool, et
    ...more
    Pamela
    Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    This account of Fox's recruitment into the CIA, her training, and some information about her assignments is fascinating. The parts about her childhood less so. I have no idea how accurate her account is given that the CIA would not want a lot of details out in plain sight for all to read, but I was captivated by her story. It reminds me somewhat of Carrie Mathison, the character on Homeland, so maybe it is not fully grounded in reality. Putting that aside however, Fox comes across as intelligent ...more
    Pamela
    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 ch
    ...more
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