Thursday, May 10, 2018

"A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership" by James Comey

Continuing to work my way through the stack of current events-related books I've accumulated recently ;) I just finished "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" by former FBI Director James Comey.

The most-publicized sections -- about Comey's dealings with the Trump White House -- are only a small part of the book, towards the end.  The rest of the book is all about how Comey got to that point, and his reflections on the different people he has worked for throughout his life (starting with his very first boss, Harry Howell, at the local grocery store)  and the examples of leadership (both positive and negative) they provided, as well as other interesting characters he encountered along the way. I very much enjoyed his stories about Sammy "the Bull" Gravano and other mob bosses, Martha Stewart (!), Rudy Giuliani, Presidents Clinton, Bush (45) & Obama,  Vice-Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, Attorneys General John Ashcroft, Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch and Jeff Sessions, to list just a few names you might recognize.

This is probably the last book where you'd expect to find an ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) angle -- but nope, there it is:  Jim Comey and his wife Patrice (who are roughly the same age as I am) are bereaved parents. They lost their fourth child, Collin, in August 1995 to a Group B strep infection. Those of us who are also bereaved parents will recognize ourselves in the moving passages that describe Collin's brief life and death, and its aftermath, including Comey's reflections on why bad things happen to good people and how this relates to the justice system (channeling grief into purpose). Patrice became an activist, launching a nationwide campaign to ensure all pregnant women and babies born in the United States are now tested for Group B strep:
Patrice wrote publicly about our son and traveled the country supporting efforts to change the standard of care... She didn't do anything alone, but her voice, along with the voices of many other good people, changed our country. All mothers are tested now, and their babies live. Something good followed unimaginable bad. Other mothers will never know what might have been, which is as it should be. 
[As an aside: after my own loss three years later, I can remember reading stories online from other bereaved mothers whose losses were the specific result of a Group B strep infection. A couple of years later, Cousin/Neighbour's Wife told me about her pregnant sister -- whose first baby was born exactly one day after I delivered my stillborn daughter -- and how annoyed she was that her birth plan was being changed because she had tested positive for Group B strep and would need antibiotics administered during delivery. "I'm sure the doctors know what they're doing," I murmured through clenched teeth, thinking, "Does this woman know just how f***ing lucky she is??"]

Comey does come across as a bit of an annoying Boy Scout/Dudley Do-Right sometimes (and he admits he has a healthy ego) -- but let's just say I am more inclined to believe his version of events than the current occupant of the White House, and that he made the best decisions he could (and there were some pretty tough ones with no truly good outcomes) with the information he had at the time. His basic sense of decency and integrity, his belief in the rule of law, his affection for his colleagues at the FBI, and his love for his wife, family and country shine through the pages of this book. At the book's end, he states his optimistic belief that the country will survive Trump and overcome the damage he has created. I hope he is right.

I gave it four stars on Goodreads.

This was book #8 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 33% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :) 


  1. Ooh, thanks for the review. I'm going to look for it on my library app.

    And I'm not sure I would have been quite so restrained with Cousin/Neighbour's Wife! (It's so easy to say, isn't it?)

  2. I've been looking forward to this book. Mainly because I was curious what Comey would say about his life in politics, working during a period where a lot of scandal happened (Trump being a small part of that).

    But the ALI angle is interesting. Though I agree with Mali about being restrained with your cousin/neighbor's wife.

    Thanks for the review!