Christened Isabel after her mother and grandmother, Elmer was early and often traumatized by the loss of beloved relatives. She begins her autobiography by recounting stories of her mother’s generation before moving on to describe her own years as a child during the Depression and World War II. As a young woman she was educated and seasoned by her work as a cancer researcher at the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Center while also being a part of the glittering debutante scene. While playing down her Rockefeller links, she still had to demonstrate her fitness for marriage by having her family listing appear in the Social Register. Indeed, money and its social implications continued to be a subtle but significant barometer for most of Elmer’s life. Though she and her family have certainly enjoyed the comforts and security of wealth, they were not immune from financial shocks. As a young wife and mother, however, she followed a rather conventional life-style.
The memoir closes with the gradual assimilation of the Elmers into the heart of a dedicated group, the Community of Christ, in Cape Cod. A dramatic measure of the conversion lies in Elmer’s decision to attend a church function rather than a historic and unique reunion for the descendants of John D. and William Rockefeller. Her desire to put faith first led her to quit a stubborn smoking habit, cleanse her life of manipulative lies, and heal her ulcers and other health disorders. In her judgment, her church affiliation has brought an inner peace that no amount of Rockefeller money could buy or control.
Her account yields interesting background facts about her Rockefeller forebears, but the book’s deeper message simply and sincerely echoes the contemporary yearning for religious certainties.