Eleanor Roosevelt’s grandson reprises the familiar events of her life.
The author, who was 20 when Eleanor died in 1962, offers scanty but affectionate recollections of time spent with her, especially the summer vacations at Val-Kill. Built in the 1920s as a refuge where Eleanor could relax with her friends away from her domineering mother-in-law, Sara Delano Roosevelt, Val-Kill was “paradise” for David, his siblings, and their cousins. “There were few rules and even fewer schedules,” and “Grandmère” was always a warm, attentive presence. The author notes that Eleanor had “an amazing facility for engaging even very small children in conversation. [She was] always encouraging me to tell her about myself, the things I was doing, and what interested me, no matter how young I was.” As he recalls the history of the Roosevelts, David also describes his grandmother’s lonely childhood and her close relationship with Teddy Roosevelt, whom she loved and admired, though politics soured staunchly Democratic Eleanor’s relationship with the next generation of Republican Roosevelts. This estrangement, David notes, has ended; the two branches of the family now meet on a regular basis. Quotes from family letters and Eleanor's own writings document the high and low moments of her of life, including her beloved father’s early death, her mother’s coldness, her sense of betrayal when she discovered that FDR had conducted an affair with Lucy Mercer, her role in his administration, and her triumphant efforts to make her own life. Eleanor was bitterly hurt to learn that Lucy Mercer Rutherford was with the president when he died, and David suggests that for much of her life she had to fight depression. Her greatest quality, he observes, was “the ability to be absolutely ordinary and in that simplicity to be most extraordinary.” Mike Wallace’s introduction recalls his 1957 TV interview with Mrs. Roosevelt.
A loving tribute distinguished more by the many hitherto unseen family photographs than by the familiar memories.