A famous mother and famous son bond through email exchanges.
When Vanderbilt reached her 90s, her son, CNN journalist Cooper, realized there might not be many years left to interact, so they began to correspond via email, carrying out a conversation on the important things that have mattered in both their lives. Over the course of the following year, the two delved deeply into Vanderbilt’s childhood. She discusses the loss and effects she felt from never having known her father, who died when she was very young, the trauma she experienced during the well-publicized custody trial she endured at age 10, and the closeness she felt toward her governess rather than toward her biological mother. Vanderbilt writes with frankness about her impulsive love affairs and subsequent marriages to men she barely knew but who were older and filled the emptiness that only now she realizes was created by the lack of a father in her life. Cooper also explores some of his own issues during these mother-son conversations. He discusses his own anxieties and sense of loss when his father died and his trepidation at coming out as gay to Vanderbilt. The combination of questions asked and answered brings forth much more of Vanderbilt’s hidden life than that of Cooper, allowing readers insight into a woman whose name is known and who has shared much of her life through various memoirs. The perspective of old age and the distance from past events has allowed her to unveil these new aspects to her son and now to readers. The takeaway for mother and son is a closeness they didn’t have before, and their interchanges might prompt readers to do the same with their own elderly parents, perhaps with the same outcome.
Entertaining and thoughtful moments exchanged between a mother and son who have spent much of their lives in the spotlight.