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Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Typically, I don't do a whole lot of reviews of anything other than theatre, music or something that has some relation to one or the other. While I've neglected this blog lately, the other thing I've been neglected for far too long are my books. I have a stack that I have yet to read. Once upon a time, I used to read a lot -- teen serials (ie, The Baby Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High), magazines, classics, really as many books as I could manage to read at any one time. Unfortunately college changed all of that. When you major and minor in subjects where all you do is read (I would average anywhere between 2-4 a week!) it tends to burn you out. Since then, sadly I tend to average about 2 books a year (in their entirety) unless it is something outstanding.

About a month ago, I finally got around to picking up a memoir that has been on my "must read" list since it's publication, What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love by Carole Radziwill. I, like many millions of people am one of those who continue to find the Kennedy family intriguing. I don't even remember when my interest began, but it was likely due to some kind of influence from my mother. I read as many books as I could about the family, watched many of the movies made about "Camelot" and found particular interest in our family trips to Boston, Cape Cod and Washington, D.C. all of which were steeped in Kennedy family history.

While I wasn't around when his father's life was cut short, I do remember where I was when I heard that John Kennedy, Jr.'s plane went down. I turned on the news for some strange reason that morning (typically not the first thing I turn to on a weekend) and sat there shocked at the news (I don't think I turned the TV off the entire day). Immediately, I remember thinking how sad it was...then wondering what it must be like for his sister, Caroline who only a few months earlier lost her mother as well.

The day that John Kennedy, Jr.'s plane went down, a chapter undoubtedly in the Kennedy legacy ended. While Americans mourned the loss of the man who will always be remembered as little boy whose saluted his slain father, Carole Radziwill lost two of her dearest friends. While reading her memoir, I wondered what that must have been like and how I couldn't possibly imagine her deep loss (particularly considering her husband, John's cousin, Anthony Radziwill was dying of cancer).

Carole Radziwill writes a honest and loving account of her five year marriage to Anthony (who had cancer the entire length of their marriage --a tumor was found on their honeymoon, five years after his testicular cancer went into remission). While caring for her husband and dealing with the emotional stress of having a sick spouse was obviously difficult and often times heartbreaking, Carole got through it particularly because of the love and support of Anthony's best friend and cousin John Kennedy, Jr. and his wife and Carole's best friend, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy.

While many might think this memoir has the potential to capitalize on the Kennedy family and their unfortunate tragedy, Carole Radziwill does just the opposite. She brings a real face to John and Carolyn making them out to be the best friends you always wish you had. The stories weren't about becoming tight with who we've come to consider as American Royalty, but about real people who had real love and concern for each other. In describing the close bond John and Anthony had for each other, she writes: "John is Oscar to Anthony's Felix. If Anthony is the angel, the well-mannered school boy, John is the scamp...Watching them, I can see they can't stand too close to each other and can't bear to be too far apart." In reading that, it is instantly easy to understand their bond.

In a three week time span, Carole lost her best friends -- the people who helped support her during the most trying moments of Anthony's illness -- and then enduring the greatest loss of all when her husband lost his battle with cancer. Losing three loved ones in less than a month is a tragedy that nobody should ever have to endure. This isn't really a story predominantly about death but one about love -- what it means to love your friends, your family and to be in love. It is the urgency that comes from that love -- needing to provide comfort and protection to those who have become a part of your heart and soul. Though it is a terrible loss that nobody can truly understand, Carole found a way to write with great heart and truth to provide a greater understanding for us as the readers and I think in some ways for herself.

As a person who too understands the heartbreak that comes with loss, I admire the way Carole was able to find a way to day at a time. Though you never get over death, you find a way to survive.


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