Select one of the keywords
FBI Girl: How I Learned to Crack My Father's Code    by Maura Conlon-McIvor order for
FBI Girl
by Maura Conlon-McIvor
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

After reading the book jacket, I knew I was holding something special in my hands. FBI Girl grabbed my heart, brought smiles to my face, and tears to my eyes. Maura Conlon-McIvor has written a dramatic monologue of memories, lovingly exposing herself and her family through both painful and joyous times. She describes a father (Joe) who does not talk about his job as an FBI agent, and communicates very little in his home life, and a mother (Mary) who is solid in her role as parent, wife, and activist. Conlon-McIvor writes with humor overlaying drama to reveal her extreme shyness, a devastating loss in the murder of a family member, and the miracle of a Downs Syndrome brother.

Conlon-McIvor's immediate family lived in California, separated from many relatives on the east coast in New York City. Joe and Mary Conlon and their five children were traditional in their love of baseball games, Sunday dinners of roast beef and mashed potatoes, and watching The FBI TV series starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.. Maura believed that Dad in his silence communicated in code, and that he even dried a washed car using a specific FBI method. When he did speak, Dad's constant saying was, 'I've never seen a house like this in all my life.' Maura 'didn't know whether that was good or bad ... with the code it's hard to tell!' She eavesdropped on adult conversations, and fantasized case-solving with the aid of Nancy Drew mysteries and library books that would help her 'to crack the FBI code'.

She kept a journal of surveillance information, logged vehicles and license plates, kept notes on the lives of known offenders such as 'Baby Face Nelson', and 'Pretty Boy Floyd', and sketched a 'Career Wardrobe', i.e. FBI clothing such as black velvet capes and a blue jacket with badge, handcuffs, and secret pockets. One of Maura's beliefs was that, 'In the top bureau drawer Dad stores his badge and FBI gun. I have never seen him stash the gun there, but I can tell it's in that drawer. When I walk past his dresser, slow, with crouched fingers like 'Nancy Drew', I feel that haunting gun stare at me. I keep the perfect distance, three feet away. I know if I get too close, the gun will go 'bang' and Dad will discover that I spy on him.'

A turning-point in Maura's life in releasing her shyness was the effect of a ninth-grade drama teacher. In the school's stage presentation of Twelve Angry Women, Maura played the part of juror number eleven, giving an outstanding performance. From this experience she realized that 'her voice matters'. Maura's memoir is set to melodious, poetic prose enhanced by a child's vivid imagination. During a trip to New York to meet the relatives, there's a touching exchange in Mother's reminiscences of her own youth on Jerry Point, bungalow-living summers on the beach, and showing the children the building which staged the 1945 'Miss Jerry Point Beauty Pageant', in which Mary was a participant.

On the last page, Maura writes about traveling at age eighteen to Clare, Ireland, the 'place where my people come from. That's another story.' I recommend FBI Girl to you and look forward to reading that other story.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews