Genre: Adult Biography
Pub. Date: December 2, 2014
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "The Kennedy wives saw history up close—made history in some cases. They knew wealth and privilege but we are bonded to them by loss which are our losses too. The Kennedy women—fierce, intelligent, and very private—belong to us. Not because of their glamour, but because of their grief and misfortunes. THE KENNEDY WIVES takes an unflinching look at the women who married into the Kennedy family and their distinct roles. Rose, the matriarch; Ethel, the athlete; Jackie, the icon; Joan, the fragile beauty; and Vicki, the redeemer. In reality, each woman was complex and multifaceted. As Kennedy wives, they were bonded through characteristics and experiences unique to the Camelot family. The Kennedy Wives is an exploration of these women that will offer what no other book or film created thus far has: a thoughtful analysis of what drew the Kennedy men to these iconic women, and what the women endured in exchange for their acceptance into the Camelot clan."Is there a more intriguing American family than the Kennedy family? I don't think so; the Kennedys steal the show. The Kennedy Wives focuses on five Kennedy women and how their lives have been shaped by becoming apart of this famous clan. First, there's Rose Kennedy, the matriarch of the Kennedy family. Next is Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's wife. Of course, the authors focus on Jackie Kennedy, the famous wife of John F. Kennedy, and lastly, there's Joan Kennedy and Vicki Kennedy, both wives of Ted Kennedy. Authors Amber Hunt and David Batcher did a wonderful job bringing to life each woman's tale of the many ups and downs that come with the territory of being a Kennedy. Each woman's story was fascinating in its own right and I was thoroughly captivated by every heart-wrenching detail.
A few women stood out to me in this biography. First, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was utterly captivating. I can't stress this enough. I had never read much about her and I am so glad Hunt and Batcher included her in The Kennedy Wives as her life was so, so fascinating. I loved learning more about how she ran her household, how she dealt with her husband's affairs, and how she raised her children. Everything from her discussion topics at the dinner table, her round-robin style of letter writing to the children, her commitment to stay fit, her campaigning for her son's till old age, her commitment to Catholicism, and her strong, innate drive were all inspirational to me. Her family was received at the British royal court and learning more about that was also eye-opening. Rose Kennedy lived to be 104 years old and outlived four of her nine children. Her life was better than fiction in some spots and you couldn't pry my hands off this biography when I was reading her portion.
Another standout for me was Ethel Skakel Kennedy in The Kennedy Wives. I always knew her as the boyish, strong athlete of the family that didn't give a second thought to playing touch football with the guys and getting muddy, but there's so much more to her than that. She's gutsy, she's fun, and she had eleven children. Can you imagine? And one of her children was born after Robert Kennedy was assassinated! I loved reading about her eccentric childhood and learning more about her.
Of course, reading about Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, a favorite of mine, is always intriguing and inspirational. She dealt with so much and handled it with such grace. Between her fertility issues, her husband's affairs, and the pressures of being the youngest first lady of the United States, one can't deny the incredible story of Jackie Kennedy.
While I don't find Joan or Vicki's stories to be as captivating as Rose, Ethel or Jackie's, I still couldn't get over how much the members of the Kennedy family endured. The heartache, the trials and tribulations, and the extreme wealth all seemed fictional at times. Joan Bennett Kennedy dealt with alcoholism and the upsetting fact that two of their children had cancer. Ted's second wife, Vicki Reggie Kennedy is a lawyer and is highly educated. She did a lot to help Ted Kennedy and cared for him through his brain cancer. All in all, Joan and Vicky definitely had their ups and downs as well in The Kennedy Wives.
One thing that really stood out to me was the fact that each woman dealt with death and hard times, but it never stopped them from picking themselves up, dusting themselves off, and moving on with courage. I was completely dumfounded when I started thinking about how many Kennedy lives were taken whether it be from an airplane accident, illness, or violence. When you start adding it up, it was astounding. My heart broke with every family member lost and despite their successes and great wealth, it seemed like there was a dark cloud hanging over their heads.
Nonetheless, I absolutely loved The Kennedy Wives. Reading about their lives was a gentle reminder to live courageously and never give up. If you are fascinated by these important people in history and want to learn more about the women behind the men, I highly recommend The Kennedy Wives. It would be the perfect holiday gift.