THE KENNEDYS: America's Emerald Kings is a colossal work that
details not only the better-known family names, but also the lesser
known figures at the roots of the Kennedy legacy.
Maier starts his story by introducing Irish immigrant Patrick
Kennedy as he arrives in Brahmin-laced Boston in 1848. Like many
Irish immigrants he is escaping the hardships of the Potato Famine.
The book describes Kennedy's struggles in Boston and his untimely
death nine years later as he leaves his wife Bridgett a widow with
four mouths to feed.
Readers will be interested to learn that Kennedy's four children
were listed as "foreigners" on a Boston census report, even though
they were born in America. Bridgett worked as a maid to support her
family and had to deal with job advertisements in Boston that read
"Irish Need Not Apply", which Maier chronicles in fine
The family's ongoing relationship with Ireland reverberates
throughout the book, which includes lesser-known facts about JFK's
trip to the Emerald Isle in 1963, when he visited New Ross, the
town his great-grandfather left for America.
Maier reveals the relationship the Kennedys had with the Irish
Republican Army. While JFK might not have been aware of his
family's ties to the IRA, Kennedy cousin Mary Ann Ryan tells Maier
about her mother's --- Mary Kennedy Ryan's --- involvement in the
IRA women's group.
P.J. Kennedy, JFK's grandfather, also is given prominent play in
Maier's tome. In 1886, P.J. Kennedy was elected by a landslide
margin to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and the torch
of the initial Kennedy involvement in politics was ablaze.
THE KENNEDYS chronicles JFK's unforgettable rise to become the
first Irish-Catholic president of the United States and his one
thousand days in office with unbridled vigor and enthusiasm. Maier
conveys the spirit of Camelot and JFK's days in the White House
possibly better than any other biographer.
When the book was first released, much press attention was given to
the revelation of Jackie's suicide threats to the late Father
Richard McSorley. This is a testament to Maier's dogged reporting
and it shows his strong journalistic background. To this reviewer,
it is extremely troubling that Georgetown University is considering
sealing the diaries from further study. Maier interviewed McSorley
before his death, which he states in the book's preface. Maier's
work should be hailed rather than faulted, based on the fact that
John F. Kennedy's assassination some 40 years later is still a
major topic of controversy.
THE KENNEDYS is a pleasure to read and a legitimate page-turner,
even though it is a biography that spans five generations. Besides
touching upon the Kennedys' quest as the consummate Irish-Catholic
family in America, Maier reports on the family's involvement with
the Vatican. He also keeps tabs on Joseph Kennedy, JFK's father,
and how he dealt with tragedy after tragedy in the deaths of his
THE KENNEDYS belongs next to JFK's Pulitzer Prize-winning book
PROFILES IN COURAGE.
Reviewed by David Exum on January 22, 2011