Best-selling biographer Andersen (These Few Precious Days: The Final Year of Jack with Jackie, 2013, etc.) chronicles John F. Kennedy Jr.’s too-brief life and the complex relationship he shared with his beautiful, enigmatic mother, Jacqueline.
As the only son of John and Jackie Kennedy, the most “glamorous couple” of their generation, JFK Jr. came into the world burdened by expectations. JFK hoped his son would one day enter politics; at the same time, though, he also expressed a desire that John Jr. “would do whatever [made] him happy.” Ultimately, though, it would be his widow, Jackie, who influenced their son the most. She, too, wanted him to forge his own path. But she also had a keen sense of herself as the keeper of her husband’s legacy and that John Jr. would one day become the Kennedy family standard-bearer. A devoted mother, Jackie fought to protect both her children from the media attention that followed them into their lives as private citizens. She also did everything she could to keep JFK’s memory alive in her son. In the meantime, Jr. developed a passion for the stage. But under pressure from Jackie, he abandoned his dream to study acting. Still, he never left the spotlight and went on to have high-profile affairs—of which his mother wholeheartedly disapproved—with celebrities like Madonna and Daryl Hannah. He struggled to find his political identity and fulfill his mother’s wishes for him through ventures like the short-lived pop-political magazine George. In the end, though, he never quite found his career footing. Three years before his tragic death at age 38, John Jr. married Carolyn Bessette, who mirrored Jackie in her patrician bearing, stylishness and need for control. Sensitive and astute, Andersen’s book offers an intriguing look at a fraught mother-son dynamic that, years after the deaths of both Jackie and John Jr., still has the power to mesmerize.
An intimate and compelling look at “the most brilliant star in the Kennedy firmament.”