SYMPTOMS OF WITHDRAWAL by Christopher Kennedy Lawford

SYMPTOMS OF WITHDRAWAL

A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A rare and worthy first-person glimpse into the pitfalls of being a Kennedy, complete with instructions on how to step into the deepest hole available, from the son of Patricia Kennedy and actor Peter Lawford.

“I was given wealth, power, and fame when I drew my first breath. Now what?” asks Lawford, admitting that he “failed to take advantage of any of them.” The “what” was booze and drugs in quantities that would make even the most hardened liver quail. But you could hardly blame him. Here was a guy whose first stop before being brought home from the hospital was a bar so his parents could grab a drink (they’d already had a few while still in the hospital, of course). Lawford’s memoir zeroes in on his shabby, feckless behavior until he was in his 30s, but it can’t help revealing all sorts of minutiae of the kind craved by Kennedy-watchers. The story covers his mother’s proprietary relationship with her family; the divorce that threw him in among his maternal relatives; life with Uncle Bobby; the daily protocols of Hyannis Port; what it meant to suffer the wrath of Big E (Ethel); how it felt to have family members murdered while the rest of the world described the deaths as assassinations. In a natural, jazzy voice, Lawford describes his years of “better living through chemistry,” which beveled the edges of neglect and failed expectations until it became the 800-pound gorilla riding his back, queering his prospects and turning his life to trash amidst the grandeur. It wasn’t easy for Lawford to get straight; consequences included alienation, divorce and crying children—the same things his parents had inflicted on him.

Classier than the usual tell-all: an honest account of a personal pilgrimage through privileged self-destruction.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-073248-2
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2005