From the moment of their births, John and Caroline Kennedy occupied a central position in what is generally regarded as the most famous family in the United States, if not the world. Even as young children growing up in the White House, their most subtle gestures and actions made headlines.... Yet until now they have not been the subject of a dual biography. In that sense, this volume represents a first.
In American Legacy, #1 New York Times bestselling author C. David Heymann draws upon a voluminous archive of personal interviews to present a telling portrait of John and Caroline Kennedy. A longtime biographer of various members of the Kennedy clan, including Jackie and Robert Kennedy, Heymann covers John's and Caroline's childhood in the White House, the dark aftermath of their father's assassination, their uneasy adolescence, and the many challenges they faced as adults, all under the glaring eye of the media. He reveals John's and Caroline's loving but at times trying relationship with their larger-than-life mother, as well as Jackie's own emotional struggles, romantic relationships, and financial concerns following JFK's death.
Other revelations brought to light for the first time in American Legacy include the assassination attempt made on Jackie just before she gave birth to John; JFK Jr.'s romantic escapades prior to marrying Carolyn Bessette and accounts of the predominantly happy marriage they shared despite criticisms from questionable sources; the shocking report of the autopsy performed on John following the tragic plane crash that killed him, Carolyn, and her sister Lauren; Caroline's rise to become one of the wealthiest women in America and her life now as the sole keeper of her family's magnificently complex legacy.
Utterly compelling and full of new and fascinating details, American Legacy overturns much of what we thought we knew about two of the most talked-about members of the Kennedy family.
The latest tell-all biography from bestseller Heymann, sure to become a common sight at beaches across America, is a look at the life of John Kennedy, Jr. that remains compelling despite the fact hat much of the material here has been covered elsewhere (not least in Heymann's RFK and A Woman Named Jackie). Heymann shows sympathy and admiration for the Kennedy family, but doesn't blanch at presenting the seamier side of Camelot-including sexual exploits, drugs and alcohol abuse. The book begins with a riveting account of John Jr.'s fatal 1999 plane crash, what Heymann characterizes as an accident waiting to happen: "He knew just enough about piloting to be considered dangerous," especially in collusion with factors like "alcohol, pharmaceuticals, a broken ankle... to say nothing of youth, folly, and overconfidence." Naturally, Jackie Onassis plays a big role, especially in John-John's early years; Heymann illustrates to heart-breaking effect what a devoted mother she was, shielding her children from media overexposure and the siren call of celebrity to the best of her ability while also dealing with a husband who was famously unfaithful and publicly murdered. A typical Kennedy life story, haunted by fame and tragedy, this volume won't surprise anyone who's well-read on the subject, but it's a fine, emotional summer read for anyone who daydreams of American royalty.
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-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 01, 2007
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Excerpt from American Legacy by C. David Heymann
After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, his widow, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, took it upon herself to raise their two children, John Jr. and Caroline, in as normal an atmosphere as their celebrity would allow. As a single parent, Jackie gave them her love and her time, and supported them in their daily activities and life decisions. Her strong commitment to her children and her fervent desire to keep them out of the glare of the spotlight -- not always successfully -- were nevertheless a testimonial to her diligence, a true sign of her devotion. The results of her efforts were (and are) clearly visible. Unlike so many of the other Kennedys of their generation, John and Caroline were centered and successful. For all their losses and travails, they managed to avoid the pitfalls and scandals that beset so many of their cousins. Their values reflected the better part of their heritage. They were humble, modest, and refined -- rare attributes in any individual regardless of background.
What makes John and Caroline's story unique is that from the moment of their births, they occupied a central position in what is generally regarded as the most famous family in the United States, if not the world. Even as young children growing up in the White House, their most subtle gestures and actions made headlines. As they grew older, their fame derived less from their accomplishments than from what each came to represent in historic terms. As the children of arguably the most famous American couple of the second half of the twentieth century, they were destined to live their lives in the public domain, the subject of countless magazine articles, television specials, and newspaper reports. Yet until now they have not been the subject of a dual biography. In that sense, this volume represents a first.
In good times and bad, John and his sister, Caroline, were unusually close, bound together not only by common heritage and circumstance but by a series of traumas and tragedies that ultimately altered the course of their lives. Yet what seems particularly unique about them is that despite their shared intimacy, the two were vastly different in personality and temperament. A wife and mother, Caroline has always been introverted and intensely private. She possesses her father's appearance but her mother's strength of will. She is as devoted to her own children as her mother was to hers. Like her mother, she is something of a mystery, difficult to read, hard to interpret. John looked more like his Bouvier mother but boasted his father's debonair charm, outgoing conviviality, and sense of humor. Caroline has always been reticent, whereas her brother shone in public. Had he lived, it is likely he would have followed in his father's footsteps and entered the political arena. Given the opportunity -- and with a bit of Irish luck -- he might well have gone all the way.
In several respects, this book is more about John than it is about Caroline. His life is complete. For better or worse, his tragic (and untimely) end allows us to examine him in a fuller, more definitive vein. Many of his friends and acquaintances were willing to speak on the record for the first time. Caroline's life continues to evolve. In this regard, she remains very much a work in progress. While generally cooperative, her friends and associates were less forthcoming and more protective. Approaching the age of fifty, she is still an open book, a volume with an ending yet to be written. What emerges is a portrait of two siblings, a brother and sister -- one perspective drawn in full color, the other limned in shades of black and white. This, then, is their story.
Copyright (c) 2007 by C. David Heymann