This intriguing book brings a fresh perspective to bear on the intimate, charged partnership of John and Robert Kennedy. The author, Richard D. Mahoney, whose father was a friend of Bobby's and an appointee of Jack's, has both the academic and political experience necessary to evaluate evidence of the Kennedys' relations with the Mafia, anti-Castro rebels, and other groups lurking in the shadows of American life. He also has a sharp eye for the brothers' differing yet complementary personalities. Jack was intellectual and cheerfully cynical, with a zest for pleasure increased by a life-threatening illness concealed from the public. He looked to passionate, partisan Bobby for bulldog-like political support and used his brother as a "moral compass" when planning his administration's actions on civil rights, the corruption of organized labor, and the containment of Communism. Their powerful father, Joseph--whose deep pockets basically bought Jack the presidency and at the same time compromised it because of Joseph's links to organized crime--looms over the brothers as the author of a Faustian bargain that may well have played a role in JFK's assassination. Mahoney's vivid, compulsively readable text offers suggestive questions rather than definitive answers, but it certainly succeeds as a bracing corrective to "America's inability to see its history as tragedy," a failure Jack and Bobby emphatically did not share. --Wendy Smith
From Publishers Weekly
Writing in a steady, almost relentlessly elegiac tone, Mahoney proves that the lives and deaths of John F. and Robert F. Kennedy remain as compelling now as they were throughout the turbulent 1960s. Mahoney, a former JFK scholar at the University of Massachusetts and at the Kennedy Library, examines how Jack and Bobby were shaped by their relationship as brothers and by the legacy of their father, Joe Kennedy. In 44 brief chapters, each a vignette chosen to illuminate how the brothers responded to events not as separate historical actors but as members of a family, Mahoney reveals the anger, even rage, that permeated the Kennedy years (exemplified by the implacable hatred between Bobby and the Mafia and between the Kennedys and Castro). The tumultuous events of the 1960s pass in review as Mahoney contrasts Jack as the cool ironist with Bobby as a vengeful authoritarian who grew, Mahoney contends, into a principled moral crusader. Although he asserts a second gunman took part in the JFK assassination, Mahoney doesn't identify him or definitively endorse any of the competing conspiracy theories. Ultimately, Mahoney offers a vivid fraternal portrait of Jack and Bobby Kennedy as co-participants in the crises of their times, setting in motion forces that would lead to their destruction. Mahoney is an excellent storyteller, but the drums of high drama rumble a bit too persistently through the book as he portrays the brothers as figures out of a Greek tragedy brought both high and low by the force of their character.
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