The Nine of Us: Growing Up Kennedy by Jean Kennedy Smith
THE NINE OF US is a story about a family--and a BIG one, at that. Keep in mind that this is not a book about politics or government--it's a book about a family. Naturally, government service is mentioned, but that's not really the central message of this book. The central theme is the joy and love found within a family--their struggles together, the high points, and the low points.
This is a book mostly about children and how they grew up together. The author has mostly fond memories of her big family. She also credits her parents, Rose and Joe, for their diligence: "I am so grateful to our parents for being so focused in their child rearing" The author explains that she wanted to tell the real story about her family: "I wanted to remember them, and my brothers and sisters, as they really were." THE NINE OF US tells the story of 9 kids and two loving--but sometimes strict, parent. The author notes that she was fortunate to be encouraged to keep a journal; that habit becamse very useful in telling this story.
The Kennedy household was a busy household. The father set the example: "Even as a child, Dad was never not working." Hard work and diligence was stressed in the Kennedy household. The values from the parents were traditional Yankee values--hard work, diligence, faith: “To whom much is given . . .”
From the earliest age, all the children were required to "use our talents and gifts for the good of others and of our country." The parents made it clear that there was“No Whining in This House." The parents also made it clear that "we were not the center of the universe."
The father emphasized responsibility. During World War II, the father gave this advice to young Bobby: “It is boys of your age who are going to find themselves in a very changed world, and the only way you can hold up your end is to prepare your mind so that you will be able to accept each situation as it comes along. So
THE NINE OF US contains lots of delightful stories about each of the Kennedy children. The stories are mostly light and cheerful, but of course, there was tragedy as well. The first child to be lost was Joe, during WWII: "Fate determined that our family would never be whole again when the news arrived, one hot August day in 1944, that Joe had been lost."
Perhaps the saddest part of THE NINE OF US is the story of befell Rosemary. The parents hoped a surgical procedure would help her, but the results were devastating: "Little could we understand as well the sadness that befell our beloved Rosemary . . . It is still not clear what happened. Rather than finding relief through the procedure, Rosemary lost most of her ability to walk and communicate. We had been so hopeful, and were devastated." The patriarch of the family "remained heartbroken over the outcome of her surgery for the rest of his life."
All in all, I found THE NINE OF US to be a tender story--but also a bittersweet story. Having grown up in a large family myself, I appreciate all the wonderful things that a big family offers. The author sums up this story nicely:
"Mother and Dad taught us to be thankful to those who came before us and to give back to our fellow man and country. They taught us to never take anyone or anything for granted. I wanted to remember them, and my brothers and sisters, as they really were, and I am grateful to all those who helped make that possible.
Advance Review Copy courtesy of Edelweiss.