What Remains is a vivid and haunting memoir about a girl from a working-class town who becomes an award-winning television producer and marries a prince, Anthony Radziwill, one of a long line of Polish royals and nephew of President John F. Kennedy. Carole Radziwill's story is part fairy tale, part tragedy. She tells both with great candor and wit.
Carole grew up in a small suburb with a large, eccentric cast of characters. She spent her childhood summers with her grandparents and an odd assortment of aunts and uncles in their poorly plumbed A-frame on the banks of a muddy creek in upstate New York.
At the age of nineteen, Carole struck out for New York City to find a different life. Her career at ABC News led her to the refugee camps of Cambodia, to a bunker in Tel Aviv, to the scene of the Menendez murders. Her marriage led her into the old world of European nobility and the newer world of American aristocracy.
What Remains begins with loss and returns to loss. A small plane plunges into the ocean, carrying John Kennedy, Anthony's cousin, and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, Carole's closest friend. Three weeks later Anthony dies of cancer. The summer of the plane crash, the four friends were meant to be cherishing Anthony's last days. Instead, Carole and Anthony mourned John and Carolyn, even as Carole planned her husband's memorial.
Carole Radziwill has an anthropologist's sensibility and a journalist's eye. She writes about families--their customs, their secrets, and their tangled intimacies-- with remarkable acuity and humanity. She explores the complexities of marriage, the importance of friendship, and the challenges of self-invention with unflinching honesty. This is a compelling story of love, loss, and, ultimately, resilience.
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1 . This was a good read!
Posted January 02, 2010 by glgartin , IndianapolisI didn't know what I was picking up and the story just carried me along. I could say I was drawn in not knowing how it was going to end. I have to say I shed a tear on this one because I felt her loneliness. It was just that good.
October 12, 2005
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Excerpt from What Remains by Carole Radziwill
Friday, July 16, 1999
Three weeks before my husband died a young couple smashed their plane into the Atlantic Ocean, off the Massachusetts shoreline, well after the mid-July sun had set. It was reported in the news as 9:41, but I knew the general time, because I had spoken to the woman less than an hour before. The pilot was my husband's cousin, John Kennedy. His wife, Carolyn Bessette, was my closest friend. She was sitting behind him next to the only other passenger, her sister, Lauren. A still, hot summer day had melted into a warm and sticky night. A quiet night, unremarkable except for the fog, which rolls in and out of New England like a deep sigh.
While we were still making plans, before they took off from Caldwell, New Jersey, she called me from the plane.
"We'll fly to the Vineyard tomorrow, after the wedding. We can be there before dinner."
It was a short conversation, because I was going to see her the next day. I was staying in her house, their house, on Martha's Vineyard, with my husband, and they were taking a simple trip. One they'd made many other weekends, from a small airport in New Jersey to the islands off Massachusetts--a well-worn ninety-minute path up the coastline.
I hung up the phone and opened the book I was reading and an hour later she was dead. Afterward I tried to find something to explain what had happened--was it cloudy, were the stars out? But the night was ordinary. It usually is, I think, when your life changes. Most people aren't doing anything special when the carefully placed pieces of their life break apart.
They flew a lot that summer, from the city to the Vineyard, and we called each other every day if we weren't together.
"We're getting a late start. I'll call you in the morning."
It takes seconds to plunge into an irrevocable spin in a small plane--into what the Federal Aviation Administration calls a graveyard spiral. According to the accident report, the plane broke the surface of the ocean three minutes after the pilot sensed a problem. At 9:38, he made a curious turn. One hundred and eighty seconds later, the last thirty of them aimed directly at the water, their stories ended abruptly.
I wonder if he felt the awkward motions of the plane in those minutes, the changes in speed or direction. It's likely he did not. If you close your eyes in an airplane, you don't feel up or down. You don't feel yourself tilting right or left. You don't feel anything, really, and your senses tell you it doesn't matter. Clouds were hiding the familiar strings of lights that paint the coastline. He might as well have been flying with his eyes closed.