Readers of this book will marvel at the relentlessness of its subject, Rose Kennedy, who lived to the age of 101 and who remained unbent by personal tragedies, at least two of which became the universal tragedies of an entire nation. If a single adjective describes Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, it is “resilient.” Suffering the loss of four children, the prolonged illness and ultimate death of a husband who had in many ways humiliated her, and assorted catastrophes among her surviving children and grandchildren, Rose Kennedy remained true to an unswerving Roman Catholic faith that led her to believe deeply and sincerely in the maxim that God does not visit more tragedy upon people than they can bear.
Higham has uncovered and collected an unimaginable mountain of material, much of it previously unavailable, to document this readable and consistently fascinating biography. Remarkable is his ability to have compressed what he has gathered into a book of manageable length, although at times some of his chapters read like jottings in a datebook rather than penetrating analyses of the material he is presenting. The book, unfortunately, lacks an index, which would have enhanced its usability.
Higham’s most interesting chapters are the later ones, beginning with the Kennedy presidency and subsequent assassination followed in less than five years by the assassination of Robert Kennedy. During these dark years, her grief intensified by her husband’s declining health, Rose Kennedy continued to travel, to look ahead, to be a stalwart public figure working for the causes she most devoutly believed in. Higham’s presentation of this vibrant woman during her years of greatest loss is uniquely sensitive and moving.