In the few short weeks since his book Three Truths and a Lie was released, Graham Fuller has already been approached by a few people who have told him they were touched by its universal themes — be they sad and melancholy or uplifting and regenerative.
“I’ve had three or four friends who bought it who have mentioned that this touches emotions that are very affecting, that they are common sadnesses,” said the 10-year Squamish resident, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official and author of 10 previous books, most of them focussing on the geopolitical situation in the Middle East, where he spent most of his intelligence-gathering career.
Three Truths and a Lie is a significant departure from any of those books, the most recent of which was A World Without Islam, released in 2010. Three Truths is a memoir that explores the life of identity-searching and risk-taking young Luke, a Korean orphan whom Fuller and his wife Prue adopted in the mid-1970s.
Though Luke’s life ended in a tragic drug overdose at the tender age of 21, the memoir — told from the perspective of his sometimes-bemused, sometimes-perplexed and/or befuddled adoptive father — also aims to be life-affirming, Fuller said.
“One person I quoted at the end said that Luke probably had more influence on his life than anyone else, and in some very positive ways,” Fuller told The Chief. “I ask a lot of people: Is it a depressing downer? They say, ‘Yes it’s sad, but it’s also uplifting, because there’s a real effort to find meaning from tragedy.’”
Three Truths and a Lie, though, might not have come to be were it not for someone who read a piece of Fuller’s writing at a writer’s group meeting in Whistler about five years ago.
After reading Fuller’s account of a trip the family took to Mexico with Luke, writers’ group instructor Laisha Rosnau told him, “This is great but there’s way too much material. Have you ever considered turning this into a book?’”
Fuller said he enjoyed making the transition from writing what amounts to history, to writing a personal memoir. Though the family had lots of records from the time, the memoir essentially amounts to a work of creative nonfiction using his own memories, those of his other family members and others.
“The events are real and you’re re-creating them,” he said. “In effect, that’s what memoirs are — this is my memory of what happened. I did draw on other family members and friends for their recollections, but it’s mostly my memories.
“Memoir is a fascinating genre. It isn’t like writing history,” he said. “Yes, there are facts, but there are many ways of interpreting the facts — and there are emotional facts. We might remember facts, but our emotional memories are all quite different.”
Fuller said he thinks Three Truths and a Lie will appeal to a wide range of people — those who have an interest in international politics, because the book is set in various places and times in history, but especially to those who have experienced a loss and sought to come out the other side with a greater understanding of life’s nuances.
The passage of time also changes one’s perspective greatly, he said. Fuller said that if he had written the book in the mid-1990s, shortly after Luke died, it would have been a very different book than the one he wrote.
“Writing this forces you to get down into the weeds and dredge up the feelings and the memories. But writing it forces you to really go through that process and finding meaning in the experience,” he said.
“S--- in some people’s lives is manure in others’. S--- happens, but is it s---? Or is it manure for further growth and something positive? Does it nourish something more? It all depends on how you look at it.”
A book launch and presentation from Fuller are planned next Wednesday (Nov. 7) at 7 p.m. at the Brackendale Art Gallery.