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The Kennedy Heirs: John, Caroline, and the New Generation - A Legacy of Triumph and Tragedy

Review

The Kennedy Heirs: John, Caroline, and the New Generation - A Legacy of Triumph and Tragedy

Bestselling Kennedy chronicler (JACKIE, ETHEL, JOAN: Women of Camelot; AFTER CAMELOT: A Personal History of the Kennedy Family) J. Randy Taraborrelli has created yet another solid offering focusing on the famous Kennedy family. No matter what Americans think about this remarkable political clan, most of us do think of them --- either in memory of their notable tragedies, in surprise at their foibles, or in hope of seeing their name rise again in positive ways on the national scene.

It’s not an easy assignment covering the Kennedys, since there are multiple members of the second and third generations, at least 29 being examined here. Ethel and Bobby had 11 children, Teddy, three. John, Jr. and his wife, Jacqueline, had two --- by far the best known, named in the title of this fact-fraught account. Caroline, who was five when her father was assassinated, arguably might be said to have attained the most success, having married the longest and once served as Ambassador to Japan under President Obama. Her brother John, remembered by an older generation for staunchly saluting his father’s cortege as a toddler, could have inherited the so-called Kennedy curse, dying in a plane he was piloting, a crash that killed his wife and sister-in-law.

"J. Randy Taraborrelli has created yet another solid offering focusing on the famous Kennedy family."

Bobby’s son, David, was 13 when he watched his father’s triumph and murder in quick succession on television; cocaine and other drugs caused his demise. Another of Bobby’s boys, Michael, who attended Harvard and attained a law degree, is here revealed as an unstable character who had a blatant affair with his children’s teenage babysitter. He also died suddenly, tragically, while skiing and playing Nerf football with family on Aspen Mountain.

The devastating effects of alcohol and drugs run like sap through the family tree, with Teddy, his wife Joan and many offspring afflicted. There has been a general tendency for self-engendered disgrace in the third generation echoing Teddy’s involvement in a horrific car crash/murder. Ethel, though, is shown here as the single ramrod-straight official proponent of Kennedy-ism, which to her mind would never have included even bad language, much less substance abuse and philandering.

Taraborrelli’s somber examination of a cursed clan was the product of some years of interviewing and ceaseless study into the family that has become the journalistic quarry of his writer’s aspirations. This lengthy segment ends, thankfully, on a positive note, with the ascension of Joe Kennedy III (Bobby’s grandson), a Harvard grad and Peace Corps volunteer, now a Massachusetts Congressional Representative ready to stand in the more solid footprints of his forebears. As Taraborrelli states, “He inherited the burden of expectation and didn’t mind it; he embraced it.” As a fourth generation Kennedy, Joe III may, he speculates, “have learned some important lessons about fidelity and commitment.”

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on June 14, 2019

The Kennedy Heirs: John, Caroline, and the New Generation - A Legacy of Triumph and Tragedy
by J. Randy Taraborrelli

  • Publication Date: June 11, 2019
  • Genres: Biography, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 1250174066
  • ISBN-13: 9781250174062