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American Legacy: The Story of John and Caroline Kennedy Paperback – July 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The latest tell-all biography from bestseller Heymann, sure to become a common sight at beaches across America, is a look at the life of John Kennedy, Jr. that remains compelling despite the fact hat much of the material here has been covered elsewhere (not least in Heymann's RFK and A Woman Named Jackie). Heymann shows sympathy and admiration for the Kennedy family, but doesn't blanch at presenting the seamier side of Camelot-including sexual exploits, drugs and alcohol abuse. The book begins with a riveting account of John Jr.'s fatal 1999 plane crash, what Heymann characterizes as an accident waiting to happen: "He knew just enough about piloting to be considered dangerous," especially in collusion with factors like "alcohol, pharmaceuticals, a broken ankle... to say nothing of youth, folly, and overconfidence." Naturally, Jackie Onassis plays a big role, especially in John-John's early years; Heymann illustrates to heart-breaking effect what a devoted mother she was, shielding her children from media overexposure and the siren call of celebrity to the best of her ability while also dealing with a husband who was famously unfaithful and publicly murdered. A typical Kennedy life story, haunted by fame and tragedy, this volume won't surprise anyone who's well-read on the subject, but it's a fine, emotional summer read for anyone who daydreams of American royalty.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The first dual biography of JFK's children is a far cry from the glitzy, superficial star bios that litter bookstore shelves. The book, which traces the lives of John and Caroline Kennedy, begins with a detailed account of the 1999 death of John Jr., and Heymann pulls no punches: the airplane crash, he demonstrates (citing government documents, among other sources), was caused by the inability of an inexperienced pilot to handle weather conditions under which he had no business flying. The rest of the book is like that: hard-hitting, straightforward, and—when the situation calls for it—uncomplimentary. Heymann touches on some well-worn Kennedy themes: JFK's womanizing, Jackie's demanding nature, the whole Kennedys-as-American-royalty thing. But by focusing on the children, he gives us a new perspective on the family. We see the president and his wife through the eyes of their offspring, and, after their father's death, we see what growing up Kennedy means to a young girl and boy who are desperately trying to be regular kids in an environment that absolutely doesn't permit such a thing. The book appears to be well researched (although some readers might quibble with using such low-end biographers as J. Randy Taraborrelli and Kitty Kelley as sources), and there's no denying that Heymann knows how to make a biography read like an epic novel. A must for committed Kennedy watchers. Pitt, David --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743497392
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743497398
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,950,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By aah412 on July 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to respectfully disagree with the reviewer who urges those who have previously read about the Kennedys to purchase this book. I have read several Kennedy biographies, and I'm not sure this was a worthwhile purchase. For me most of this book was a rehash of earlier material. In fact, much of it is a retread of Heymann's previous book, "A Woman Named Jackie".

The book attempts to grab readers by promising an explosive revelation from the autopsy report of John Jr., which turns out to be a suggestion that John may have been under the influence of alcohol at the time he crashed his plane. Yet Heymann admits that the toxicology reports do not indicate whether the alcohol found in his system was the result of premortem or postmortem events. And although one man who encountered John at a convenience store near the airport noticed a bottle of wine under his arm, Heymann offers no witnesses who actually observed Kennedy consuming alcohol. So in my opinion that allegation falls a bit flat.

As for Caroline, she apparently has a very protective and discreet circle of friends, and I have yet to read a biography of Caroline that really fleshed out who she is beyond the woman who appears in the news handing out Profiles in Courage awards. This book is no exception. And if you are looking for shocking revelations about Caroline, the best Heymann can come up with is that she may have smoked some pot as a college student in the 1970s. And her forever appearances-conscious mother gave her a hard time about her weight.

Heymann in fact seems less than fond of Caroline and spends about two pages accusing her of exploitation in her publishing ventures, particularly the book of her mother's favorite poems.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Biography Afficionado on July 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I think I've read nearly every book ever written on the Kennedy family but this is my favorite, by far. I received it two days ago and am already done--because it's hard to put down once you've started. Heymann has managed to interview people who've never talked much before about Jacqueline, John and Caroline and the result is a compilation of stories and anecdotes never revealed before. It's a fair, well-balanced account of the lives of two of the most famous offspring in American history, providing insights into the relationship between the two siblings, as well as some of the feelings each had about the other's spouse. Without "bashing" either Ed Schlossberg or Carolyn Bessette, it helps the reader better understand their personalities and the complications of life within the Kennedy clan. All in all, I would rank it an excellent summer read and certainly one of the best accounts, to date, of the choices made and lives lived by Caroline and John. While one can never know completely what makes people "tick," readers will come away with the most in-depth view thus far revealed about two children raised in the spotlight and the values, experiences, and inherent personalities which shaped their respective lives.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By C. J. Taylor on August 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
How could David Heymann report that mourning dignitaries from around the world for JFK's funeral walked from the US Capitol to St Matthew's Cathedral, a two mile walk? Everyone alive at the time saw the dignitaries walk from the White House to the cathedral, a distance of a few blocks. This error in the sequence of events along with a fuzzy date about Lee Radziwill's divorce made me question many of Heymann's outlandish and incredible assertions that followed in the book, many of them salacious and mean-spirited. I "googled" the guy and discovered that his credibility as a biographer and reporter is questionable. Though his writing and storytelling was a compelling distraction, I am not so sure about the accuracy of his revelations. The documentation of his book seems impressive.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Laurel-Rain Snow TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It begins with the 1999 plane crash that kills three people, devastating numerous families, friends, and the country: The fallen prince, John F. Kennedy, Jr., who left behind the promise of a future now cut short, and a sister, Caroline, who at forty-one, would become the keeper of the flame. He had once spoken to his sister about the subject of death, and how it seemed a common denominator for their family:

"We aren't exactly cursed," (he had said of the Kennedys), "but we're pretty damn close to it. Yes, we've had our share of luck. We've been to the mountaintop. But there have been entirely too many tragedies, mostly of our own making."

At this lowest point in a life, the author begins American Legacy: The Story of John and Caroline Kennedy, and takes the reader back to the early moments, with how life started for this little family with a handsome congressman, a beautiful twenty-four-year-old Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, and "the wedding of the decade," on September 12, 1953. We follow this golden couple as their life unfolds in glamour, promise, and that eventually leads to the White House, with all of the ups and downs of this very public life that would become theirs.

Based upon a voluminous archive of personal interviews, we see a telling portrait of the Kennedy legacy and of the legacy left behind for John and Caroline, because of and in spite of their personal tragedies.

Not only do we see their growing up years after the assassination and how difficult that was for them, but of the Onassis years, followed by finally settling down again in New York, where they grew to adulthood.
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