The Long Goodbye Summary (Patricia Reagan)

Patricia Reagan

The Long Goodbye

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Many readers will remember Patti Davis as Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s youngest and most outspoken daughter, often at odds with her family and railing against her father’s beliefs and resulting policies. Davis acknowledges those years in The Long Goodbye. Her regrets for how she handled those differences juxtaposed against her grief about her father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease results in a poignant look at the Reagan family.

Davis’s book spans 1995 through early 1997 then skips to June, 2004, during the week of Reagan’s death. Each chapter provides a monthly glimpse into their lives as Alzheimer’s pervades their family. Beautiful words and finely crafted phrases invite readers into Davis’s honest and wrenching farewell to her father. She reminds readers of his faith, his stability, and her own love for him.

The book teeters along striving for balance between maintaining privacy and providing enough information, echoing the difficult tightrope walk of many public figures. Davis’s memories overflow with a little girl’s love for her father, resentment that a nation needed him, and reconciliation with her family and her own choices. Yet she closely guards her father’s frailty and dignity. Those who long to understand Alzheimer’s will not find much detail of the disease or much about Reagan’s final years. Rather, this memoir revolves around Davis’s need to remember him as a devoted husband to her mother and a loving father as she watches him fade into confusion.

In her prose the love and the forgiveness outshine the grief and pain she battles in this tribute to Reagan. Despite the jarring gap between 1997 and 2004, Davis’s words evoke laughter, tears, and an ache as a daughter comes to terms with losing her father--a universal theme.