Michelle was always an over-achiever. She excelled in school, had lots of friends and was part of a close, loving family.
In her first job as a lawyer, she meets a law student named Barack. They become friends; then lovers. They get engaged; she gets a new job; they marry; he runs for Congress; she gets another new job; he’s not home much (which she resents); they have two children; he runs for president; he wins. But there’s more to it, much more.
She writes frankly about projects she worked on while she was First Lady, both the good ones and the bad. She writes about the criticism she got as the wife of the president and she tells how she dealt with the fallout from critics.
She describes how Malia and Sasha handled the prison-like atmosphere that comes with living in the White House and she tells about opportunities opened for them simply because they were the president’s daughters. She justifies Barak’s absences.
She keeps emphasizing that she did not choose -- and does not like -- politics. She sacrificed her preferences for the good of her husband, children and the country. (This is the self-serving part.)
Overall, I was reminded of the many things she did while FLOTUS, as well as some of the pitfalls she and POTUS fell into.
She does not disguise her dislike of Donald Trump – calls him a bully and a misogynist. Right on, Michelle! ★★★★ out of four.
Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian. The setting is Detroit during the 1970s when the 1967 riots were fresh in everyone’s memory, when racial tensions were prompting white families to move to the suburbs, when city high schools were breeding grounds for racial skirmishes. He uses lots of Detroit street names, store names, schools and shopping malls, even Detroit radio stations that were popular in the ‘70s.
Daniel Yzemski is a chubby adolescent loner who loves music, especially rock and roll. He and his dad are close, but his mother is troubled and depressed, surely an alcoholic as well. Danny’s first few days as a freshman at Redford High School are disasters. But this is a coming-of-age novel, and a doggone good one. Danny slowly grows both physically and emotionally, mostly through interesting and humorous trial-and-error incidents. He learns to (mostly) avoid his tormenters and to (mostly) deal with his dysfunctional family. The ending is not ideal, but plausible and satisfying. ★★★★ out of four.
The Kennedy Heirs by J. Randy Taraborrelli. There’s not much we haven’t heard about this family’s tragedies – untimely deaths, accidents, assassinations, assignations, marriages and divorces, as well as a variety of addictions (drugs, alcohol, sex). Taraborrelli rehashes most of these, but he also talks of the family’s tremendous wealth, their public service and their charitable contributions.
This family exhausts me.
He concentrates on the second generation of Kennedys – John and Jackie’s Caroline and John; Bobby and Ethel’s Kathleen, Joseph, Robert, David, Mary (Courtney), Michael, Mary (Kerry), Christopher, Matthew, Douglas and Rory; Jean and Stephen Schriver’s Stephen, William, Amanda and Kym; Ted and Joan’s Kara, Edward and Patrick; and Eunice and Sargent’s Robert, Maria, Timothy, Mark and Anthony.
Taraborrelli also writes about the new, upcoming generation: Joseph Patrick III (son of Joseph II and Sheila Rauch); Conor (son of Robert II and Mary Richardson); and John “Jack” Kennedy (son of Caroline and Ed Schlossberg).
The Kennedys saw themselves as a wealthy political dynasty whose members were duty-bound to get involved in public service or charitable work. Apparently, each member of the Kennedy family was also always conscious of the public’s perception of the family as a whole – the Kennedy dynasty.
Individuals are often shown to be indulged, pampered and spoiled. A feeling of entitlement is common. Ethel comes across as a controlling mother, often bitchy, sometimes cruel. Many of the troubled marriages are discussed in detail -- John and Carolyn’s, Ted and Joan’s, Maria and Arnold’s, Joseph II and Sheila’s, Robert II and Mary’s. Kennedy men were notorious for their lack of respect for women. Kennedy wives mostly looked the other way when their husbands strayed.
It was a lot to swallow. The book is heavy, too -- 547 pages, including dozens of photos of the family. I really liked this book. ★★★★ out of four.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someoneby Lori Gottleib. I enjoyed this. It’s reminiscent of several I read while in college and liked -- The 50-Minute Hour, by Robert Lindner, which was about psychoanalysis -- all oddball case studies; I also liked some of Oliver Sacks’s books such as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, which are also about odd psychological maladies.
Gottleib’s book is about therapy – about her patients as well as her own therapy and her own therapist. Her patients are fascinating. One is a self-absorbed screenwriter, another a newlywed woman diagnosed with terminal cancer, another a senior citizen who threatens to commit suicide on her birthday.
She analyzes her patients’ therapy sessions in detail, from why they say they’ve come to her, where they choose to sit when they get to her and exactly how they talk about their problems. She tells about their silences, their break-throughs, and how they change, gradually getting better and better.
She also describes her own therapy sessions, including one in which she does nothing but cry for 50 minutes, all the while thinking, “I’m paying this man big bucks to watch me cry for 50 minutes!” She shows compassion and truth as well as humor to take some the mystery out of therapy. This was one of those books I hated to finish because I was enjoying it so much. ★★★★ out of four.