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Full Fathom Five

A Daughter's Search

Mary Lee Coe Fowler

Publication Year: 2008

Mary Lee Coe Fowler was a posthumous child, born after her father, a submarine skipper in the Pacific, was lost at sea in 1943. Her mother quickly remarried into a difficult and troubled relationship, and Mary Lee’s biological father was never mentioned. It was not until her mother died and Mary Lee was a middle-aged adult that she set out to learn not only who her father was, but what happened to him and his crew, and why—and also to confront why she had shied away from asking these questions until it was nearly too late.
          Fowler searched through old ships’ logs, letters, and naval communiqués; visited submarine museums, the Naval Academy, and other pertinent sites; interviewed old friends and crew members who knew her dad and mom or served concurrently; and slowly reconstructed the world in which they lived. Beautifully written, Fowler’s memoir reveals what she eventually learned: of the perils and harships of submarine service in wartime, of the tragic irony of how her father’s sub was probably lost, and of the long-term damage experienced by the families of those who do not come home from war.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. vii

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p. ix

Besides the people named at the end of the book for their generous personal communications, I am grateful to the readers who reviewed my manuscript in various drafts, giving me cogent and helpful feedback to make it better: Elaine Reisenberg; John Bowdren; Tom Corwin; Frank Jeton; the late Jim DeRose; Ron Martini; and Elizabeth Moore. ...

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PART I - Ghost Dad

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pp. 1-22

I see myself squeezing past old trunks, suitcases, cardboard boxes, and rolled- up maps to a dark mahogany wardrobe that stands at the far end of our attic under a high, lone window. I push one end of a trunk in front of the wardrobe, then pull myself on my belly up onto it. Kneeling, I stretch my hands up to small knobs on the double doors. ...

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PART II - The Search

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pp. 23-252

A few days after I get back home to Maine, my brother Henry calls in tears. “That’s the first time I’ve seen him with us,” he says of the photo I sent. “It must have been right before he was lost.” ...

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PART III - Sea Change

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pp. 253-264

At the beginning of each semester, I try to “sell” my creative writing ourse—a core requirement that students, particularly those going into accounting, computer science, and other nonwriting fields, wonder why they have to take. I tell them that imagination is the key to empathy, even compassion, and if they work their imaginations like a muscle, ...


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pp. 265-273

E-ISBN-13: 9780817380397
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817316112

Page Count: 274
Illustrations: 26 Illustrations
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 567999113
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Full Fathom Five

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Fathers and daughters -- United States.
  • Fowler, Mary Lee Coe, 1946-.
  • Children of military personnel -- United States
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Naval operations.
  • Mothers and daughters -- United States.
  • Parent and adult child -- United States.
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