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A Memoir

by Eileen Rockefeller

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-399-16408-8
Publisher: Blue Rider Press

A mostly revealing look at the personal and professional life of the great-granddaughter of American industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller.

"I come from a family of ledger keepers,” writes the author. Though she claims the family no longer keeps up the practice, this memoir is an exacting emotional ledger, balancing slights and wrongs against kindnesses and fond memories. The source of both is, most frequently, her family. Her parents are often pictured as cold and distant, her siblings as aloof and exclusionary. In one chapter, she describes a meeting with her siblings: "[A]ll my life I have only seen the ways in which you and others have hurt me. I didn't consider how my own angry barbs might have affected others.” Yet Rockefeller still relishes describing injuries done to her, both real and perceived, by her family. Though the self-absorption does grate, the least attractive quality of the book is the frequently patronizing tone toward anyone who is not wealthy. Poor people exist as receptacles for the Rockefellers’ benevolence; they pop up at convenient times as a method of humanizing the author or her family and then, just as conveniently, disappear. Of a young black woman, Gloria, who stayed with the family on their private island in Maine one summer, Rockefeller writes, "I didn't know what it was like to feel racial discrimination, but in my own way I knew what it was like to feel falsely singled out by strangers or excluded by my own siblings.” The comparison is not exactly apt, and the lack of perspective is jarring.

Raw and honest but weighed down by a focus on old hurts and self-absorption.