The Women in the Castle, Jessica Shattuck, author; Cassandra Campbell, narrator

castleIt is 1938. The place is Burg Lingenfels, in Germany. A traditional yearly party is being planned by Marianne von Lingenfels for her aunt, the countess, who is confined to a wheel chair and no longer able to supervise the arrangements for this yearly festive celebration at the castle. It is also a terrible time of foreboding for certain segments of the German population. Hitler is in power and is being extolled and lionized, more and more, by his followers. The worst is yet to come as he puts his plans in motion. Some Germans sensed the approaching onslaught and wanted to do something to prevent it. Others faced the rumors of German brutality with disbelief, and there were some who were simply in denial because it served their purpose to pretend blindness and reap the benefits of German cruelty and injustice. Others outright supported his plans for a “Final Solution”. Who was guiltier? Who was free from guilt? The story seems to be an attempt to understand and humanize Nazi sympathizers. They had their reasons for doing what they did, and in the end, didn’t they suffer as well?
Three women are the main characters. Marianne, the niece of the countess, is married to Albrecht von Lingenfels. He is of the aristocracy, wealthy and well thought of, and he is very much involved in conversations about setting up a resistance movement against the policies of Hitler, but he needs some additional convincing.

Another is a beautiful young woman, Benita Fledermann, the wife of Connie Fledermann a man who actively pursues the effort to resist Hitler and hopes to create a resistance movement. She, however, is a Nazi sympathizer. She met Connie when she was 19 and was the leader of a group of young girls in the Bund Deutscher Madel, the BDM, Belief and Beauty, a branch of the Nazi Organizations Female Youth Group.

The third woman calls herself Ania Grabarek when she meets Benita and Marianne. She was once the wife of Rainer Brandt, a leader of a Landjahr Lager, a place where German youth were trained to become part of Hitler’s new agrarian society. When she met him, he persuaded her to join the Nazi Party. When she met Marianne, she was pretending to be a displaced person rather than someone who had once been a Nazi sympathizer married to a devout Nazi. She had become disillusioned with Hitler when she witnessed atrocious behavior by his followers and had taken her children and run away from her husband and the Party.

Circumstances evenutually placed all three women together, sharing a living space. Each had a different agenda and hidden secrets. Each had a different way of looking at life, of surviving during and after World War II. Marianne believed in doing the right thing, in honoring the memory of the resisters, in helping those who were hurt by Hitler’s minions. However, she was self righteous and cold hearted at times, unable to forgive the things she did not approve of or to accept the wrongdoing of others, for any reason. She did not want the black deeds of Germany to be relegated to the forgotten shelves of history. Was she self-serving? Belita wanted to go forward and to lose the burden of her memories and her pain. She wanted to begin again, to have a new life, forget the past, but would it be possible? Ania wanted to escape from her past. She had always disregarded her own deceptions and created a false history, distorting the things she had done in order to excuse her own complicity and guilt. When she could no longer do that, she reversed course and wanted only to remember and would not forgive herself for her sins. Was that the right path?

While the story is interesting as it presents the effect of Hitler on Germans of all backgrounds, rather than only his specific targeted victims, it attempts to make those complicit with his ideas sympathetic in some way. I could not do that, perhaps because I am Jewish. I know the impact of the monster named Hitler, and his followers, on real people. There was no one who was truly blind to his madness, as far as I am concerned. There were simply those who chose to turn a blind eye to it because they saw only benefits for themselves and saw no downside.

Perhaps the author wanted to figure out what it was that created the Nazi or how it was possible for Germans to go forward with such a stain on their country’s history. What was the motivation for their brutality, what was the reason for their acquiescence, their hate? In a simplified explanation, perhaps it was because Germany had suffered a devastating defeat after World War I and was totally strapped and shamed. It was a self-inflicted wound to a country that had sought once again to overpower weaker neighbors. So, perhaps Hitler was the result of a disastrous economy and humiliated citizenry. They were demoralized. However, couldn’t it also be blamed on jealousy and greed, on a lack of a moral compass, on religious bias, and pure prejudice, coupled with a disregard for the lives of humans they decided were worth less than themselves. More likely it was about a pervasive ignorance of common decency and the Germanic personality which was orderly and cold, rigid and mechanical. Emotional responses were not highly valued. Little compassion was felt for the victims because the end result was considered good for Germans and Germany.

I simply cannot feel sorry for their suffering, therefore, which I feel was truly deserved because of their own belligerent, reprehensible behavior. Their actions were the harbinger of their own disaster. Where did they think the empty apartments came from? Where did they think that the clothing that was dispersed came from? Where did they think the people were resettled to? How did they not notice the cattle cars, the smell of burning flesh, the people who suddenly disappeared? Where did they think the disabled and mentally deficient people disappeared to? Why did they even think the Jews needed to be removed? What did they think would happen to their possessions that were left behind? Did they not notice the slave laborers who looked like zombies, the emaciated people marching through town? Who did they think were filling the jobs at the factories?

This is a story about Germans before the war, and in its aftermath, and it is an attempt to explain the way they became the people they were, but it is also the story of all of us, as cruelty still abounds and a lack of personal responsibility flourishes even today. Far fewer fought Hitler than complied with his ultimate plan. Perhaps it was greed at first, and fear of Hitler, later on, that made so many go along with his diabolical ideas, but that only explains the motivation behind their behavior, it cannot and does not justify the things that the Nazi sympathizers did or ignored. They did everything they could in order to benefit and preserve their own families, even as they tolerated the injustices done to the families of “others”. They did not recognize their own complicity in the contemptible policies of Hitler. If we look around today, we will see evidence of the same kind of blindness, the same pattern of blaming others for one’s own failures, the same inability to judge one’s own behavior honestly.

I can out Germany’s tragic history behind me, and surely history will, but I wonder, should they be forgiven?  Would forgiveness open the door to the idea of forgetting and perhaps to another Holocaust? Perhaps the answer is to accept the fact that it happened and to work to prevent it from ever happening again, to anyone, and to understand that we are all valuable. None are less or more than any other. Will the strong continue to prey upon the weak, the wicked to do evil if we don’t continue to remember?

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Theft By Finding, David Sedaris

theftDavid Sedaris has compiled a book consisting of his diary entries from 1977 to 2002. This is the first volume. A second is to follow. In the past, I have appreciated his dry humor and enjoyed his poignant stories. This audio book, however, was beyond my ability to complete. Although he reads it well, in his deadpan manner, the subject matter and language is simply too low class and vulgar; the people he encounters and describes are simply all bottom feeders. Everyone is troubled, doped up, hostile and violent. He denigrates everyone on the basis of color, religion and sexual orientation. His portrayal of his life experiences in the first 2 ½ hours that I was able to listen to him was beyond what would be acceptable in polite company. I am not sure why he selected the particular incidents he did, perhaps for shock effect, but for me, it really fell flat.  The content simply got too gross. Perhaps someone more open minded will enjoy it. Perhaps as the author gets more mature and more grounded, with a realistic direction for his life, his entries in the diaries will be more palatable, rather than a sample of a variety of trashy anecdotes which are unpleasant to learn about. For those faint of heart, stay clear.

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Round Midnight, Laura McBride

This is a tale about characters that led unconventional lives, following their hearts more often than their heads. It is a powerful story about four women who came from completely different backgrounds, backgrounds charged with controversy and conflict. As young women they made drastic decisions that altered their lives completely. Each one lived in Las Vegas, a city they hoped would allow them to realize their dreams and forgive their own sins.

I recommend that the book be read as if it was four separate novellas. It covers many decades. Each story can really stand on its own; each one is riveting, except perhaps for Engracia’s, the final character introduced, because she is not as fully developed, but she is very important since she is the catalyst that unites them all, in the end. I found that treating each character as separate and apart from the other, it was easier to keep track of who they were and easier to follow the thread of their lives that eventually knitted them all together.

June Stein was a young Jewish girl who was both non-traditional and non-conventional. When she was 19 she entered into an unsuccessful marriage. After a year, she left him. At 21, she ran to Las Vegas to seek a new life. She liked excitement. When she met Odell Dibb, her life took a turn in a different direction. They married and ran his casino, the El Capitan, together. When Del hired Eddie Knox to sing in his casino, her life turned full circle, sucking her into a scandal Del hoped to squelch before it got out. Del and June both loved each other and both accepted each other’s idiosyncratic ways. Both loved Eddie Knox. In the 1940’s, a relationship between a white woman and black man was illegal in Las Vegas.

Coral was an illegitimate child. She was brought up in Las Vegas by Augusta. She wanted to know her true parentage but could not discover anything. She made all sorts of assumptions about her mother and father, but none were realized. Her non-biological family was loving and so she survived the confusion and the “not knowing”. She was of mixed heritage in a time when black/white relationships were forbidden. The woman who raised her, and became her one true mother, was strong and defied the stares of others as she pretended that Coral was her own dear child. Her siblings accepted her and loved her unconditionally. Eventually, Coral fell in love with Koji, a man who was Japanese. Their relationship eventually flourished producing children of mixed race, but the times had changed, and in some places, society accepted their marriage and their offspring.

Honorata was from the Philippines. As a teenager, she fell in love with Kidlat. She ran off with him. He betrayed her, refusing to marry her, and further, he influenced her to make a porn film that brought shame to her and her family. Because of the humiliation, she was forced to leave her home.  Her uncle betrayed her. He basically sold her to a man in America named Jimbo. He made Jimbo believe that “Rita” wanted to come to him, that she had been the one corresponding with him, instead of the uncle who was pretending to be her. Jimbo believed that she had been complicit, although she had known nothing of her uncle’s schemes. At first, he had been kind to her and intended to marry her, but when he found out about her past he felt betrayed; he became cruel and would no longer honor his pledge. One day, he decided to take her with him on a visit to Las Vegas. While there, lady luck smiled upon Honorata and she won a major jackpot at the El Capitan. Now Jimbo wanted to marry her, but June explained her rights to her. If they were not married, the money was hers alone. She escaped from Jimbo’s control to begin a new life. When she discovered she was pregnant with his child, she kept it a secret. She believed that he was evil. She did not love him. She wanted to begin again.

Engracia Montoya loved Juan. He loved her, as well. They entered America illegally. They moved to Las Vegas. He was arrested and served time in prison. They had a child, Diego. Juan felt unsafe in America and returned to Mexico, but Engracia wanted a better life for her son and remained in Las Vegas where tragedy struck their lives.

There are several common themes expressed in the narrative. Women’s rights, civil rights, family, infidelity, illegitimate children, civil disobedience, immigration issues, affairs of the heart, secrets and betrayals appear throughout. No life was perfect, but each developed with its own purpose and character. All four women were brave, in their own way. They had dreams and forged their futures independently.

Although the reviews seem to emphasize the importance of the Midnight Room at the club, I thought the women’s backgrounds, choices, decisions and lifestyles spoke far more to me. I have both an ARC and digital version of the book.

 

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Camino Island, John Grisham, author, January LaVoy, narrator

CAMINOMr. Grisham has written a book that will work well as a serialized television program once it is spiced up a bit with the romance and violence emphasized. Essentially, priceless manuscripts have been stolen from Princeton University by a gang of five men. The book is about the search for them and their ultimate return to the rightful owner. The very beginning and the very end were more interesting than the middle which was very thin with some brief mentions about the value of rare books and manuscripts and the nefarious behavior that some booksellers engage in as collectors.

There was often too much extraneous information about silly romantic moments, binge drinking, and character backgrounds that added nothing to the story. Many scenes were contrived, emphasizing the emotional dysfunction, rudeness, and alcohol dependence of the writing community. The characters, by and large, appeared either empty headed or overly impressed with their own ability. The women were portrayed very negatively as greedy, rude, sex-seeking shallow individuals. Amorality or immorality was very much alive and well!

The FBI, after their initial success in the investigation, was made out to be a bit incompetent, failing to recognize obvious clues or to pursue obvious leads in a timely way. Stupid errors were made allowing for the crime to actually pay. Insurance companies were driven by greed, not right or wrong. The criminals sometimes seemed to be the brightest bulbs, although some did, although rarely, actually pay a high price for their shady behavior.

Most of the characters were self serving and unlikable, and the story was unbelievable. Basically, it is about a young, out of work writer who is broke and having a dry spell. She is past due on a book for her publisher and in need of money. When approached by an insurance company to help find the stolen manuscripts, she suddenly becomes a well known writer and capable investigator/spy.  Although I thought she seemed hopelessly naïve and immature, she is portrayed as competent and sure of herself in very compromising situations. She neither had the experience or talent to be the spy she becomes. I found the story silly, the romance manufactured, the characters shallow, and the relationships totally artificial. The best part about this book was the narrator who gave the weak story vitality.

Once again, it will be a very good television series, but as a book, it left a lot to be desired. This author seems to be writing his books more for the entertainment world than the literary one.

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Before We Were Yours: A Novel, Lisa Wingate, author, Catherine Taber, narrator

before we were yoursBased on a horrific truth in our history, this is a story that vacillates between heartbreaking and hopeful. It begins in 1939 with Rill Foss narrating her family history and ends in the present day with Avery Stafford telling her family’s story. It is based on the crimes and cruelty of the very real Georgia Tann and her involvement with the Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. According to the author “Georgia Tann was once heralded as the “Mother of Modern Adoption” and was even consulted by Eleanor Roosevelt on matters of child welfare.” Truth is often stranger than fiction!

The early story is about the Foss family: Briny, Queenie, Rill, Lark, Fern, Camellia, and Gabion. The oldest was Rill who was 12. The youngest was Gabe who was 2. Rill was in charge of keeping all of them safe when their dad Briny took their mom Queenie to the hospital to deliver her twins. At that time, the children were all spirited away, basically kidnapped by the police who were working with Georgia Tann. Their parents were tricked into giving them up, unaware that the papers they signed in the hospital gave up their rights to them. The year was 1939 and for the next several decades, each of their lives traveled in different directions. They were taken to an orphanage, eventually adopted and separated. Because the story is based on facts, on a cruel hoax that was actually perpetuated by someone who stole children and made money basically selling them for adoption to wealthy and/or famous people, it steals the heart of the reader. Georgia Tann’s prominence kept the truth about her adoption scheme from coming out for at least three decades, from the 1920’s to the 1950’s. The cruelty to which the children were subjected often resulted in tragedy. They were fed poorly, treated very unkindly, often abused in the most awful ways and punished unmercifully, except on those occasions when they were cleaned up and paraded out for adoption. The stories about their backgrounds were made up out of whole cloth, and their names were changed to prevent them from being traced and retaken by their birth parents. Hospital staff and law enforcement was often in collusion with her.  Records were sealed to prevent the discovery of the truth. Oddly enough, some of the children were actually rescued from abusive homes and many of the stolen children did relatively well in later life, in spite of what they experienced; some were adopted by decent families, some by prominent families; but some also suffered in their new environments. Some achieved an education and life they would not have otherwise been able to, but nothing can change the fact that they were basically kidnapped and ransomed to strangers leaving their families in despair.

The present day story takes place when Avery Stafford meets May Crandall in a nursing home. She is struck by the difference in the level of care that her grandmother receives in another facility, but pleased that this place is well staffed and well maintained.  When May mistakes her for someone else, the wheels begin to turn that lead to the discovery of her grandmother’s secret past. Although she is warned to let sleeping dogs lie, in order to protect the reputation of her father, a Senator up for reelection, and her own political future, she keeps trying to unravel the mystery. When she does, it changes her life’s path in almost as dramatic a way as that of the Foss children after leaving the Arcadia. Her investigation uncovers the story of the Foss children and her family’s involvement and connection to their lives. Will the ramifications of uncovering the truth be worth it?

I have read some reviews that said the author missed the mark in some aspects of the book, but I can’t help feeling that those reviews may have been written by men who identify with books on a different emotional level. I felt totally immersed in the lives of all the characters and felt as if I knew each and every one on a personal level. The audio narrator portrayed each voice authentically and with just the right amount of accent and emotion. I highly recommend this website for further very enlightening information.

http://www.randomhousebooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Before-We-Were-Yours-Digitial-Book-Club-Kit.pdf

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The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas, author, Bahni Turpin, narrator

Starr and her brothers straddle two worlds. In one world there is a strict code of behavior and an excellent education with kids from wealthy families and in the other there are gangs and drive-by shootings and poverty. Starr lives in the ghetto and attends school in a bubble neighborhood of privilege. Her mom is a nurse and her dad, Maverick, runs a market where Starr helps out. He is an ex convict. He covered for another gang member who would have been a three time loser, sacrificed himself, and spent three years in prison. He is respected and has a lot of positive influence in his ghetto community of Garden Heights. He has no intention of ever going back to prison.

Starr is a senior at Williamson, a posh private school. She has created two personalities for herself. One is her ghetto half in Garden Heights, and the other is the one she takes to Williamson. The two worlds do not mix and even her mode of speech changes from place to place. What is cool in one place is definitely not cool in the other. No one in the private school world knows much about the Starr from the ghetto, not even her boyfriend Chris, a very wealthy white teenager who is also a senior. She keeps the two worlds separate and apart, unwilling to expose both sides of her self in either place, unwilling to expose herself to ridicule.

Chris’s world is completely different from Starr’s. Her house could fit into one of the rooms in his house! He took her to the prom in a Rolls Royce. He believes that they have been totally honest with each other and is surprised when he learns that he knew so little about her, that her world is so different from his. He is hurt when he discovers the secrets she has kept from him. When he learns that her ten year old friend, Natasha, was murdered in a drive by shooting, and that she witnessed the recent shooting death of Khalil, her close friend, by a police officer, he wants to be there for her, but she is not sure she wants him to let him into her worldview or to experience her lifestyle.

The author highlights the differences in the lives of Starr and her family when compared to her private school friends. How can the differences, injustices and misunderstandings in our “bubble” communities be addressed? Why are there so many misinterpretations and over-reactions by those in the two communities and those charged with protecting them? Why do police officers assume that a person of color is immediately suspect? Why do minorities distrust authority? I haven’t walked in the shoes of those who live in oppressed neighborhoods, although I am part of a minority, as a Jew. My background’s oppression has been different, although horrific as well. I don’t believe that I can fully comprehend the mindset or the prejudice that exists in poor minority communities.  I haven’t watched as my friends were harassed by law enforcement or seen their unarmed friends senselessly gunned down. Living “while black” is not a condition a white person can understand or judge alone. For an honest assessment of the issues and concerns presented in this book and perhaps an honest approach to changing them, an honest dialogue between all parties is required, honest being the watchword. Some responsibility exists on all sides of the dilemma and must be acknowledged.

I had questions, as I read, that still remain unanswered, questions that a person of color might mock, i.e. why would a black person want to sound uneducated to be cool? Why is that cool? I wanted to lose my Jewish inflection as fast as I could so that I would fit in with the mainstream of America and open locked doors. Why wouldn’t a person of color dress for success? I can understand why some turn to lives of crime, almost as if they have no choice, because they need money, but why do so many turn to a life of crime? Why are the gangs in charge? Why is education mocked? Why is crime glorified in the so-called “hood?” How did the gangs get so much control that even the residents live in fear of them? Why are policeman so afraid in those neighborhoods, that when they are confronted, they become trigger happy? As a white person, I can’t answer those questions? My initial impulse is to respect authority, not to ignore it, to obey police officers and not to defy them. So if I am told to stop, I stop. If they tell me to keep my hands in one place, that is where my hands stay, if they speak to me in a way that I do not like, I generally swallow my pride and hold my tongue, I do not run because I am afraid to show defiance or resist their authority, but I am not afraid that I will be shot or hauled off because of my color.

The author has left me with the impression that the teenager was wrongfully murdered and had no responsibility in the outcome that took his life. His personal behavior seemed to have no bearing on what happened and was not interpreted to represent a threat to the officer. Only he was guilty, period. It didn’t help that the officer was portrayed as a blatant liar. The author wanted the reader to believe that the officer was totally guilty and the victim totally innocent. I believe that there has to be some gray area between the black and white of guilt or innocence.

The community wanted respect, once and for all, and when a verdict came down that they disapproved of, that wasn’t what they expected or hoped for, they took to the streets looting and rioting. Then when the police came to maintain order, they cried police brutality. If respect was demanded from the police, why wasn’t it also given to the police? If unlawful behavior like looting and rioting was the common practice everywhere, our society would be chaotic, and law enforcement would be completely powerless. Anarchy would prevail. There would be no safe space for anyone. Why, in protest, should a neighborhood’s lifeblood be destroyed to show disappointment? Why disabuse the merchants of their positive reasons to serve the community by destroying their investments?

Still, overall, I found the novel to be eye-opening. No one deserves to be murdered by a policeman or a rival gang member, but the aura of false bravado that is being elevated to acceptable standards seems to be a false solution. The author has done a wonderful job of showing how a community can come together to fight against what is destroying it. She reveals and explores the layers of distrust that exist.  I don’t think enough emphasis was placed on the broad fear that the police officers’ have for their own safety. Denying the reality of the danger in their community won’t correct the situation that exists, let alone eradicate the outright bias on both sides. Still, beyond the shadow of a doubt shooting an unarmed man is problematic, but what should a policeman do, if his authority is mocked, if he is disobeyed and fears for his own life? Should he presume someone running away is innocent of criminal behavior? Should he let the suspect get away? I wondered which came first, the community’s fear of law enforcement or law enforcement’s fear of the community. Then I had one final thought, if a policeman is harassing a victim, does the victim have the right to fight back and if so, how?

The author’s political persuasion was pretty obvious, even though the dialogue in the book was subtle. She referred to one news network that she thought was prejudiced, and it was easy to guess which one it was. Why is an alternate opinion so difficult to accept and address? How can the problem be resolved if it is unaddressed?

The “hate u give” of the title refers to the idea that the minority community is underserved. It does not prepare anyone for a successful future. So, why is it that when alternatives are offered, there is resistance, especially if it is not offered by the left? Why not improve conditions regardless of how the offer is advanced?

I hope this book opens up some meaningful dialogue to help bring all people to the fount of success. This book cries out for discussion. In some ways it was flawed, i.e., the interracial nature of the relationship was really shown as a problem for Starr’s family, while Chris’ got barely a mention. He seemed to have pretty much free range to date whomever he pleased. However, overall, the main message of the story seemed authentic as it represented the collision of two disparate worlds. The narrator expertly portrayed each character in terms of personality and dialect and I was truly immersed in the book, feeling all of the emotions of the characters, all of the tension and all of the frustration. What I didn’t feel so much were the kumbaya moments.

 

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Kennedy Babylon: A Century of Scandal and Depravity; Howie Carr, Author

The unimaginable, blatant corruption involving blackmail, theft of records, possibly murder, certainly payoffs is mind boggling and is evidence of that same kind of entitled liberal behavior we are witnessing today. To gain control, it would seem that nothing is beyond the pale. The fixing of elections, falsely attacking opponents and arranging positive personal publicity has been a long standing practice in the politics of the Kennedy family, and now, it seems it has spread to the party at large.

The Kennedy’s obviously believed that they were above the law, and their contacts insured that they were able to project and maintain that image. They slept with strange bedfellows, literally and figuratively. Somehow, their money and influence controlled all of the powers that be and their willing co-conspirators, a team of “good old boys”, went along with all of their schemes. Their friends were in high places, and they respected and revered the Kennedy name, yet it would seem, in retrospect, that it was an undeserved homage.

The book centers its focus on the scandals of the Kennedys and all of the people associated with them. They lived their lives with abandon, chewing up people and discarding them. They disregarded the laws that most people feel compelled to obey. Drugs and alcohol, sex in any form, and outright lies, seemed to be de rigueur for all of them. There was no law that was inviolable, no rule that they wouldn’t break, no lie that was beyond them in order to protect themselves or each other. There certainly was honor among those “thieves”. They seemed impervious to normal standards of decorum.  For me, the worst observation about their lifestyles was the fact that those who could have exposed them for what they really were, actually supported their horrific behavior; they were actually in cahoots with them, colluded with them to protect them from scrutiny and appropriate verdicts and sentencing even when laws were broken beyond the shadow of a doubt; they prevented them from being punished and their victims from attaining appropriate retribution and justice. They painted a picture of the Kennedy’s that was indeed a fairytale, that truly was a fictional Camelot, but surely it did not exist in America. Yet the myth pervaded the country, especially after the death of JFK. They and the people surrounding them were dishonest, corrupt and corruptible. They were sycophants, plain and simple; but how could there have been so many, so willing to cover for them for their own fifteen minutes of fame?

There are secrets revealed in this book that are titillating, but today these same kinds of stories are not secrets, but are worn as badges of honor. President Clinton wore his badge named Monica Lewinski among others, without real detriment, and he still enjoys the praise and respect of his party and his followers, even as they cast aspersions and condemn those who have done far less. The Democrats were apparently corrupt for years under the Kennedy dynasty’s leadership, fixing affairs of the heart, hiding affairs of the heart and arranging affairs of the heart. They dealt with anyone who could advance their causes, bar none, and that may be ultimately what brought them down, in the end. You lie with dogs, you do get up with fleas.

The patriarch, Joe Kennedy was the worst one. Among other things he was a bigot. He began the crusade of lies, secrets and threats that invaded the family history. He used his money to buy influence and peddle it. He bought the office in the Senate for his son and later the Presidency as well. Still, those on the left don’t own up to this charade and still honor the memory of the Kennedys as superheroes, even though they were no better, in retrospect, than the mob. They were thugs. They were lords of the manor and had their own personal fiefdom. They also had more than their share of tragedy.

This first of a two volume tell-all book, will be an eye opener and a shocker for most readers who were brought up with the absolute fairytale idea of Camelot and JFK. Their collusion with mobsters, the bribes and the strong arm tactics they used seem quite truthfully, horrifying, and even more so today, because they are the stuff of reality, not fiction. One has to wonder if this kind of corruption continues. I am not sure that this book will be fully comprehended by those who have no real knowledge of politics in Massachusetts. In some cases, it felt as if the author assumed everyone who was going to read it was from Massachusetts and was familiar with the commonplace corruption and shenanigans still ongoing today in the party as a whole, a party that has, by and large, not played by the rules for years, as evidenced by their underhanded tactics in our most recent Presidential election of Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton. The book is not a fast read because there is so much “dirt”, that turns out to be real that it is hard to absorb it all at once.

On a practical note, I thought the heft of the book itself was too heavy, and it made it hard to handle easily. My advice for the second volume is to try and use paper stock that is lighter and more pliable. Also, since I couldn’t recognize all of the cartoon caricatures on the cover, I suggest they print a name underneath, or include a footnote identifying them. Also, after attending a very entertaining presentation of the book by Howie Carr and then reading the book, I realized he presented too much about the book in the public forum, so that when reading it, it felt repetitive. It would be better if he simply hinted at information in the book because exposing it with a detailed powerpoint presentation. It almost made it unnecessary to read the book, and it would be a shame if it didn’t get the readership it deserves.

 

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