The Officer's Daughter: Book summary and reviews of The Officer's Daughter by Elle Johnson

The Officer's Daughter

A Memoir of Family and Forgiveness

by Elle Johnson

The Officer's Daughter by Elle Johnson X
The Officer's Daughter by Elle Johnson
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Book Summary

The author reflects on a terrible tragedy that forever altered the fabric of her family in this remarkable memoir, a heart-wrenching story of love, violence, coming of age, secrets, justice, and forgiveness.

When she was sixteen, Elle Johnson lived in Queens with her family; she dreamed of being best friends with her popular, cool cousin Karen from the Bronx. Coming from a family of black law enforcement officers, Elle felt that Karen would understand her in a way no one else could. Elle's father was a highly protective, at times overbearing, parole officer; her uncle, Karen's dad, was a homicide detective.

On an ordinary night, the Johnson family's lives were changed forever. Karen was shot and killed in a robbery gone wrong at the Burger King where she worked. The NYPD and FBI launched a cross-country manhunt to find the killers, and the subsequent trials and media circus marked the end of Elle's childhood innocence.

Thirty years later, Elle was living in Los Angeles and working as a television writer, including on many police procedural shows, when she received an unexpected request. One of Karen's killers was eligible for parole, and her older brother asked Elle to write a letter to the parole board arguing against his release. Elle realized that before she could condemn a man she'd never met to remain in prison, she had to face the hard truths of her own past: of a family who didn't speak of the murder and its devastating effect, of the secrets they buried, of a complicated father she never truly understood.

The Officer's Daughter is a piercing memoir that explores with unflinching honesty what parents can and cannot do to protect their children, the reverberations of violence on survivors' lives, and the overwhelming power of forgiveness, even in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

BookBrowse Review
In 1981, Johnson's sixteen-year-old cousin Karen was shot and killed during a robbery at a Bronx Burger King, where she was working night shifts to raise money for a trip to Spain. Karen's father was a homicide detective and Johnson's was a parole officer, so the author understood the ins and outs of the policework that went into finding Karen's killer, Santiago Ramirez, during a two-week, nationwide manhunt.

His parole hearing in 2014 led her to delve back into her memories of the crime and its aftermath, while learning all she could about Ramirez through trial transcripts and other documents. In seeking to understand him, she found that she was also able to forgive her father for the domestic violence he inflicted on her mother.

While I was impressed by how painstakingly Johnson reconstructs scenes and events from the 1980s, the story was overly detailed and I felt it was more like a novel or a plotline from one of her TV projects – Johnson has written for Homicide and Bosch. This might appeal to readers of Memorial Drive and Your House Will Pay.

--Rebecca Foster

Other Reviews
"[A] beautiful and emotional memoir of a family tragedy... Assured prose bolsters the personal insights. This searing story deserves a wide readership." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"[P]oignant and provocative...A remarkable exploration of forgiveness by a veteran storyteller." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"This fierce, probing memoir beautifully explores the powerful aftershocks of staggering loss. How does a family go on, after senseless, random violence claims one of their own? Buried secrets fester until someone is brave enough to go digging. Elle Johnson has written a gift of a book — one that instructs and inspires, even as it breaks your heart." - Dani Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of Inheritance

"The Officer's Daughter, by Elle Johnson, is a masterpiece. More than that, it's the perfect book for our troubled time. Johnson has written the deepest, most emotionally resonant understanding of forgiveness and justice I have ever read." - Darin Strauss, bestselling author of Half a Life

"The Officer's Daughter is a powerful dissertation on the legacy of violence; a telling journey to the place in the heart where forgiveness is found. Elle Johnson's words are beautiful, poignant and painful; and always deeply resonant with truth. This book has an echo that stays with you well after you have turned the last page." - New York Times bestselling author, Michael Connelly

This information about The Officer's Daughter was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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More Information

Raised in Hollis, Queens and educated at Harvard, Elle Johnson got her first writing job on Homicide: Life on the Streets. Her credits include everything from The Fosters and Finding Carter to Law & Order and The Glades. She is currently co-showrunning Madam CJ Walker at Netflix and has done everything from working in Cairo after graduation to riding a bike across the country for a cause.

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