Sunday, May 15, 2011

Nonfiction: Passage by Sandy Powers

GoodReads blurb: "Passage" is an incredible true story of Grace Balogh and her courage during a turbulent time in American history. Through her journals, "Passage" recounts the struggles of the Great Depression; America fighting two wars: one with unconditional public support and the other with public indifference; the letters from servicemen that are poignant and timeless; and the emergence of a Cold War that pits two ideologies against each other. Threats to the American way of life prompt the FBI to recruit Grace Balogh as an undercover agent whose job is to infiltrate a cell planning violent overthrow of the United States government. Grace leads this secret life largely unknown to her family and friends. "Passage" takes the reader on a journey into events of the 1930's, 1940's, and 1950's that read like the headlines of today.

I wasn't extremely impressed by this little book, but it was an enjoyable read that was interesting for its primary source material. The author's mother, Grace Balogh, certainly had an interesting life, starting with her adoption and later abuse at the hands of her step-mother, covering the Great Depression and Second World War, and culminating with her secret involvement with the FBI in the Cold War. What made the book of particular worth is that it's almost entirely comprised of the correspondence and journals, interspersed with some pertinent newspaper clippings, of Grace herself. These bring to life the hardships and fears of the periods of American history that Grace lived through, giving the average American's view of such things. The only thing that I wish was different about the book is that I think more notes and explanations from the author would have been helpful in connecting some of the documents together and explaining events and relationships to others that Grace, writing for herself and for her children, wouldn't have thought to explain but that readers unfamiliar with her family and friends wouldn't know about. I found Passage to be unequal to some of the raving reviews I've read of it, but it's still an enjoyable, informative short little read.

I received Passage through LibraryThing's Member Giveaways program. Published by AuthorHouse, the book went on sale March 1, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry you found PASSAGE unequal to the reviews. different tastes. Here's Kirkus.
    Sandy Powers, author of PASSAGE

    Powers, Sandy
    AuthorHouse (140 pp.)
    $21.95; $12.95 paperback $9.99 e-book
    March 1, 2011
    ISBN: 978-1456729561
    Paper: 978-1456729547

    A mother’s collected memories reveal her remarkable life in this work of nonfiction.
    Powers (Organic for Health, 2007) brought home her moribund mother Grace to spend her last living days surrounded by the family she adored. Grace had led a long, full life, but her children could not possibly have imagined just how full until after she passes away, and Powers discovered boxes full of her mother’s carefully recorded memories that told the unexpectedly compelling story of Grace’s secret life. While the candid family photographs, legal documents and authentic newspaper clippings help illuminate the reality behind Powers’ sentimental portrait of her mother, “All else,” Powers writes in the foreword, “is as close to true accounts as I could make them.” That leaves Powers’ few elegant pages of introductory prose and, more compellingly, her mother’s journal—which constitutes the bulk of the short book—open to questions of verisimilitude. So be it; despite the liberties Powers may have taken, it’s an enthralling read. Correspondence with a church reveals Grace was adopted at a young age, never able to discover the identity of her biological parents. After the death of her adoptive mother and abuse at the hands of her adoptive stepmother, Grace managed to grow into a sensible, loving wife and mother in a small Ohio town. She and her husband strove for an honest living in the wake of the Great Depression until witnessing a neighbor’s gruesome murder cracked any sense of normalcy. And then came war. Patriotism runs deep throughout Grace’s journal; reprinted letters from World War II offer a frank depiction of life during wartime, both for the soldiers facing combat and for civilians, like Grace, at home sacrificing for their country. Grace’s patriotic sacrifice launches the book’s most stunning revelation—she infiltrated Cold War communist factions as an undercover spy for the FBI. Often the journal entries, particularly those containing the more incredible admissions, read like summaries of profound events rather than a dutiful narration, as if the journal—either because of Grace as writer or Powers as editor—was meant only as an introduction to the deeper story. Perhaps Grace intended to tell her daughter the story herself one day, with the detail it deserves. Now this book will suffice.
    The rare family scrapbook that isn’t boring to the outsider.

    Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Rd., Austin, TX 78744
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