The Secrets We Kept

International intrigue, secretaries serving as spies and a literary masterpiece figure in The Secrets We Kept, Lara Prescott's debut novel set during the height of the Cold War. This fast-paced narrative focuses on the women in the typing pool at the Central Intelligence Agency. Unbeknownst to their CIA colleagues, Irina and Sally have been tapped for a clandestine mission: smuggling Boris Pasternak's acclaimed novel Doctor Zhivago out of Russia, where it is banned, so that it can be published abroad.

With a plot that sweeps between the Soviet Union and Washington, D.C., The Secrets We Kept is rich with historical details reflecting the tense times of the 1950s. The Soviets "had their satellites, but we had their books," recalls the novel's mysterious narrator, from an unknown vantage point somewhere in the future. (True to the book's atmosphere, Prescott keeps her reader guessing throughout about the speaker's identity.) "Back then, we believed books could be weapons--that literature could change the course of history."

Prescott goes beyond the political into the personal by adding a secondary layer to the novel's prominent themes of secrecy and women's identities. In addition to the Cold War as a backdrop, the Lavender Scare (a witch hunt within the U.S. government during the '50s to out closeted gays and fire them from their jobs) was in full force. When Irina and Sally realize that their feelings for each other go beyond friendship, they face the choice of being true to themselves or living a lie. "We unveil ourselves in the pieces we want others to know, even those closest to us. We all have our secrets." --Melissa Firman, writer at

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