FROM THE CORNER OF THE OVAL by Beck Dorey-Stein

FROM THE CORNER OF THE OVAL

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Politics and romance among Barack Obama’s staffers.

In 2011, 25-year-old Dorey-Stein moved to Washington, D.C., to spend a semester teaching at Sidwell Friends, the school to which presidents and Congress members send their children. Her job was “to help those hormonally charged stressballs chill out.” She suspected she wouldn’t live in “this ego swamp of a city” for long, however, even after she fell in love with Sam, a Californian who worked on the Obama campaign in 2008. Then she responded to a Craigslist ad for a stenographer position that turned out to be a job at the White House. For the next five years, she traveled the world with Obama, recording his speeches and interviews and releasing official transcripts. The author’s focus, however, is not politics but relationships, most notably her romance with Jason, a senior staff member she initially referred to as Jim Carrey’s doppelgänger. Jason cheated on his girlfriend with Dorey-Stein, and Dorey-Stein felt guilty about cheating on Sam. Before long, Jason cheated on the author, the author confided in female colleagues, a couple of whom Jason subsequently pursued, and on it went. Much of the book reads more like commercial fiction than political memoir, with lines such as, “my chest clenches as though my ribs are biting down on my heart.” Even readers who enjoy a mix of romance and politics may tire of the countless I’m-so-lucky, how-is-this-my-life exclamations and the effusive dialogue. (“We should hang out!” Dorey-Stein told Jason shortly after they met. “Definitely!” he replied.) The author does provide some interesting behind-the-scenes glimpses: jogging next to Obama on adjacent treadmills; Obama’s reminiscing aboard Marine One about the day he met Michelle; and a genuinely touching section on the 2015 shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, when, after the service, an emotionally drained Obama walked through Air Force One and uncharacteristically didn’t talk to anyone.

Gossipy books can be fun; if only this one had been better written.

Pub Date: July 10th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-525-50912-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2018




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