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Lara Prescott Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Secrets We Kept (2019)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Short Stories/Novellas

Julia (2014)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Small Practical Help (2017)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Lara Prescott

Lara Prescott is an American author of historical books best known for her novel The Secrets We Kept. She was named after the protagonist of Doctor Zhivago and first found out the real tale behind the book after the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) declassified 99 documents relating to its role regarding the book’s publication and undercover dissemination. Lara has traveled across the globe from Washington to Moscow and London to Paris, all in the interest of her research, mainly focusing on the political repression in both the United States and the Soviet Union and during the Cold War and how the two countries embraced literature as a weapon.

In 2018, Lara graduated from the University of Texas with an MFA. She was born and raised in Pennsylvania and attended American University in Washington, D.C. where she studied political science. Before switching to fiction writing, Lara was a political campaign consultant. Lara’s work has been featured in The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, Tin House Flash Friday, and Crazyhorse.

The Secrets We Kept

You would think that the most powerfully and mysteriously active element in the title of Prescott’s debut novel would be secrets. Well, there are secrets, plenty of them which are fascinating to uncover in the story- secrets of espionage, infidelity, trauma, and identity. But it’s the identifier “we” that ends up having more weight in this story. The sisterhood that the author initiates to the reader in this Cold War narrative, at once mythic and workaday, is one that will stick into your memories even when the story comes to an end.

The Greece chorus that opens up this story is composed of the perpetually underappreciated and overlooked: the CIA’s secretaries in the typing pool. Through their memories, we are transported into Washington D.C. at the outset of the 1950s, where schemes to undermine the Soviet Union are being composed- the newest scheme being to use the book Doctor Zhivago as a propaganda against the communist. While most of the CIA secretaries close their offices at 5 o’clock two of them have extracurricular duties.

The daughter of Russian immigrants Irina is the latest addition to the typing pool. She has the talent to be unobtrusive, which makes her the perfect candidate for being a carrier- the kind of spy who makes pick-ups and drop-off stealthy. Sally is assigned to become Irina’s trainer- she is also a spy who recognizes Irina’s hunger for work, sense of humor, and queer desire. Across the Atlantic, the story behind the love story the CIA wants to disseminate is slowly entering middle age. Olga, is a long time misstate of Boris Pasternak, the author of Zhivago, who survives state violence and makes a life of her while at the same time trying to protect her family and make sure the book is published.

There is a discretion Lara maintains throughout her debut novel, perhaps recommended given the work and the circumstances of her lead characters. She never gives an absolute truth when she can instead give the reader a big picture and the stories that subtly contradict one another and let you draw your conclusion instead. There is a readerly pleasure in being entrusted by the author to piece all the clues together and draw a conclusion. By letting the reader discover the cruel hypocrisy in the story, the author makes the comparison feel authentic and original.

The Secrets We Kept sees most of its female characters endure so much from the governmental menace, professional disrespect, sexual assault, regardless of their accomplishments. Secrets unwind several simultaneous stories that alternate from the East (Russia) and the West (mainly Washington, D.C.) during the fateful years 1949 through to 1961. Each of the story runs alongside or tangential to that of the flawed, tormented and gifted Russian writer Boris Pasternak, focusing on the time when Pasternak was fighting to get his book “Zhivago” published and the deadly price for the ordeal to his health, especially after he was forced not to accept a Nobel Peace Prize.

Prescott’s book also gives us a detailed depiction of Washington, D.C.’s intelligence community, and its sexual and social hierarchies giving the reader a glimpse of how women had to work doubly in order to be taken as serious players. Such is the thoroughness of Lara’s research and the conciseness of her story delivery that makes the book read almost like a documentary.

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