FOUR FRIENDS by William D. Cohan


Promising Lives Cut Short
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A memoir/biography about four of the author’s Andover classmates, each of whom died an early, violent death.

Cohan (Why Wall Street Matters, 2017, etc.), a New York Times columnist, Vanity Fair special correspondent, and CNBC on-air contributor, returns with a very personal, occasionally grim text. In addition to the stories of his classmates, he also provides information about the history of Andover, the only “American high school [that] has produced two presidents of the United States.” The four friends were Jack Berman, Will Daniel, Harry Bull, and John F. Kennedy Jr. (Guess who receives the lion’s share of the pages?) The author’s approach is consistent: He sketches the person’s background, focusing on the Andover years (he alludes occasionally to his own contacts with each), and then leads us through the post-Andover life. One was gunned down in a mass shooting in a law firm; a taxi struck and killed another; the third drowned—with his two young daughters—while sailing on Lake Michigan; the fourth, as most readers will remember, perished in a plane crash on the way to Martha’s Vineyard. Cohan is frank about the struggles each figure faced in his life, from substance abuse to marital difficulties to psychological issues. Although the author mentions the many advantages all four men enjoyed—easy access to money, higher education, and employment—he keeps our attention on the human side of their lives. He reminds us of Kennedy’s famous little-boy salute at his father’s funeral procession in 1963, his stunning good looks (a “Sexiest Man Alive” for People), his now-and-then academic struggles (he twice failed the bar exam), his sometimes-raucous marriage, and his involvement in the creation of the defunct George magazine. Though portions of the narrative are undeniably moving and poignant, some readers may grow weary of the privilege on display.

An emotionally intense reminder—though not always intentionally so—that even privilege must kneel before fate.

Pub Date: July 9th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-250-07052-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2019


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