PRIVATE FACES/PUBLIC FACES by Abigail McCarthy

PRIVATE FACES/PUBLIC FACES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The first part of this fine, intelligent autobiography by the wife of Eugene McCarthy gives, among other things, a ramified picture of liberal Catholic circles. A teacher and intellectual, though not a very aggressive one, Mrs. McCarthy describes her youth, her long hesitant courtship, and the first years of her marriage when they tried to build the family nucleus around ""rural community"" life -- all with preeminent reference to the Church, especially the Benedictine orders. The McCarthys' attempt to realize a this-worldly Christianity led her to the vocation of political wife; here particular recollection takes over -- the four babies during five campaigns, the fights against Joe McCarthy, the contrast between Eugene and JFK, Eugene's earnest quest for the vice-presidency in 1964 and his utter seriousness about the presidency in 1968, a denial that ""Abigail killed"" a McCarthy-Kennedy deal in Wisconsin, the King funeral and the Chicago convention. About her more recent marital relations she permits herself only the restrained observation that, before the separation, the Senator had ""long since"" abandoned his marriage vows. What wistfully emerges is her ambivalence about her role -- she was never a co-captain like Lady Bird, she disliked the nasty side of politics, she was ""shattered"" when McCarthy refused to take seriously her difficulties with his staff, and after 1952 ""I was never able to face a campaign with equanimity again."" Yet, as she shows (recording with real pride some of her sound judgments), she has developed a reasonably astute political sense, and she worked hard in the midwestern tradition of political wives. Certainly this book is accomplished in conveying milieux, confrontations, and characters -- not least her own.

Pub Date: June 9th, 1972
Publisher: Doubleday