"An enlightening and original portrait of an almost mythic family and the Irish-Catholic experience, and a portrait of the United Sates at its best and worst." --The Star-Ledger
Acclaimed journalist Thomas Maier draws on groundbreaking research and unprecedented access to family members and archival documents to show how the unique Kennedy saga, which has captivated America for decades, was one shaped by the common immigrant experience. The Irish-Catholic immigrant heritage was always central to the Kennedy family experience--beginning with Patrick Kennedy's 1848 arrival in Brahim Boston, continuing with Joseph Kennedy's Vatican ties and through Jackie's revelations of sorrow to Kennedy-confidante Father McSorley following the assassination of JFK. The Kennedys is a revelatory glimpse at a remarkable intersection of private beliefs and public politics--and a spellbinding American epic.
With Doris Kearns Goodwin's The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys out of favor and discredited by charges of plagiarism, the door is open and the time is right for another serious, multigenerational history of America's most fabled clan. Newsday reporter Maier (Dr. Spock: An American Life) answers the need quite well with this fascinating account, which emphasizes the family's roots as Catholics and products of the Irish diaspora. Unlike Ed Klein's provocative The Kennedy Curse, this thoughtful study does not dwell on the sensational. Maier goes to the heart of the Kennedys' spiritual and tribal identity in order to define and explain a range of subplots within the family saga. For example, one sees Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy's appeasement of the Nazis and his general insensitivity to the plight of Europe's Jews during the late 1930s in fuller colors than before when one realizes the context in which he operated and the tradition out of which he sprang, rich with ancient, profound and unapologetic anti-Semitism. (JPK also clung to the traditional Irish-Catholic bias against Great Britain.) Maier likewise supplies a masterful account of the culture and habits related to Boston's distinctly Irish-Catholic ward politics, first experienced by young JFK in 1946. And he goes on to explore conservative Catholic anger over JFK's moves to "appease" in the opinion of the Jesuit magazine America anti-Catholic bigots during the 1960 election. This is all very fertile ground seeded, to a great extent, with items quite rare in recent Kennedy scholarship: new information mingled with genuine insight. It's an admirable job overall. 32 pages of photos not seen by PW.