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True Compass: A Memoir Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 14, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 386 customer reviews

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Product Description
In this landmark autobiography, five years in the making, Senator Edward M. Kennedy tells his extraordinary personal story--of his legendary family, politics, and fifty years at the center of national events.


The youngest of nine children born to Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, he came of age among siblings from whom much was expected. As a young man, he played a key role in the presidential campaign of his brother John F. Kennedy, recounted here in loving detail. In 1962 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he began a fascinating political education and became a legislator.

In this historic memoir, Ted Kennedy takes us inside his family, re-creating life with his parents and brothers and explaining their profound impact on him. For the first time, he describes his heartbreak and years of struggle in the wake of their deaths. Through it all, he describes his work in the Senate on the major issues of our time--civil rights, Vietnam, Watergate, the quest for peace in Northern Ireland--and the cause of his life: improved health care for all Americans, a fight influenced by his own experiences in hospitals.

His life has been marked by tragedy and perseverance, a love of family, and an abiding faith. There have been controversies, too, and Kennedy addresses them with unprecedented candor. At midlife, embattled and uncertain if he would ever fall in love again, he met the woman who changed his life, Victoria Reggie Kennedy. Facing a tough reelection campaign against an aggressive challenger named Mitt Romney, Kennedy found a new voice and began one of the great third acts in American politics, sponsoring major legislation, standing up for liberal principles, and making the pivotal endorsement of Barack Obama for president.

Hundreds of books have been written about the Kennedys. TRUE COMPASS will endure as the definitive account from a member of America's most heralded family, an inspiring legacy to readers and to history, and a deeply moving story of a life like no other.

A Look at Edward M. Kennedy Through the Years
(Click on each image below to see a larger view)

Ted Kennedy with Bobby Kennedy at the opening of the Royal Children’s Zoo (June 9, 1938)

John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy

Ted Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston

Ted and Vicki Kennedy (Photo by Ken Regan)

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Of course, the recent death of Senator Kennedy adds an extra layer of poignancy, but this would be a welcome addition to the political memoir bookshelf under any circumstances. Drawing upon a series of oral history interviews, and with the help of Ron Powers (Flags of Our Fathers), Kennedy devotes more than half of the book to the first half of his life-growing up as the youngest of his generation, gaining a political education while touring the western U.S. for Jack's presidential campaign in 1960, clashing with Lyndon Johnson over Vietnam, and the heartache of Jack and Bobby's assassinations. After a brief section on Chappaquiddick, Kennedy tends to the anecdotal when discussing his political career from clashing with Nixon over Supreme Court nominations to campaigning for Barack Obama. (Recollections of courting his second wife, Vicki, bring a welcome spark of personal charm.) Some readers may feel there is not quite enough introspection-while acknowledging his first wife's alcoholism, for example, Kennedy glosses over his own drinking problems-but despite the firm line he draws in the sand about discussing his personal life, Kennedy's tone of contrition is sincere. When he was a child, Kennedy's father told him, "You can have a serious life or a nonserious life." He chose the former, and at the end, seems genuinely grateful not just for what that life gave him, but what it enabled him to do for others.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 532 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve; First Edition edition (September 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446539252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446539258
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (386 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Edward M. Kennedy (1932-2009) represented Massachusetts in the United States Senate for 47 years. In 2004 he began interviews at the Miller Center of the University of Virginia for an oral history project about his life. For his 2009 memoir, "True Compass," he drew from his 50 years of contemporaneous notes from his personal diaries and worked closely on the book with Pulitzer Prize-winner Ron Powers, co-author of "Flags of Our Fathers" and author of "Mark Twain: A Life."

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a rule, biographies don't arouse my interest, and anything labeled a "memoir" is not likely to be at the top of my reading list--or anywhere else on it for that matter. In the case of TRUE COMPASS, however, I'm thankful to have made an exception. This particular memoir held my interest for a variety of reasons:

As one who came of age politically during the presidential administration of JFK, I recognize most of the names and the events that populate Senator Kennedy's narrative. Any reader of age 50 or more who paid any attention at all to the world in which he or she was growing up will recall the radio bulletins, the TV newscasts, and the newspaper headlines of the past fifty years as events unfold in this book. We can relate to much that is here on a very personal level.

The narrative takes us beyond the surface news that we recall, giving us an insider's view. Kennedy opens the stage door for us and lets us see a fair amount of the backstage action. While no striking, history-altering revelations are here, we do get to see personal actions, interactions and reactions of major players on the world stage that we probably missed during the public performance. (Sorry, my metaphor seems to be getting a bit unwieldy.) The point is that this is not a rehash of news that we digested over the last five decades but an insider's view of the events that made the news.

These memories give us a very mortal, human view of the Kennedy clan. We all know that the Kennedy family personified influence, wealth, and political power. We may have admired them or detested them for this, but we all saw them as different, above the crowd, not really one of "us." They were the American version of royalty, untouchable, shining, and often wearing the crown of public adulation.
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Format: Hardcover
Senator Edward M. Kennedy's deeply moving memoir is the story of how the youngest most underrated of the nine children born to Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, through great perserverence, through a long and difficult journey found real purpose carrying out the course his brothers had set.

An avid sailor, Kennedy said sailing helped him, "displace the emptiness inside me with the awareness of direction" and so it could be also said that the direction his brothers left him also helped displace the void left by their deaths. He not only picked up where they left off in politics but he took on the role of father-figure to all of their children too.

While there are hundreds of books about the Kennedys, this is the only definitive inside account from a member of the family, evoking high expectations for candor and revelation into the inner lives of this family like no other.

While this book is exquisite in its detail - a testament to Ted Kennedy's love of painting a picture, telling a story and lighting the dark with humor - it may leave you wanting for deeper introspections into the virtually relentless litany of tragedies that befell his life. Alas, this sailor didn't like to look back and peer too deeply into the darkness he had escaped - even in his memoir - for fear that the darkness might overtake him and engulf him in despair. Keep moving forward, stay ahead of the storm, "I can handle this" seems to have been his mantra and code for survival.

At the heart of this autobiography is the message that through perseverance, will-power and fortitude we can overcome any shortcomings, atone for any failures and succeed in our chosen course.
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Format: Hardcover
As a Massachusetts resident, Ted and the rest of the Kennedy's have been a part of fabric of the Boston since before this reviewer arrived here nearly 50 years ago. Naturally, I was anxious to see this memoir. Over the years our family has supported him but sometimes supported his competition as well. We had supported his nephew Joe Kennedy and attended the latter's birthday parties at the Hyannis Cape Cod Compound where Uncle Ted was always in attendance. My kids have strolled the famous sandy dune paths with some of the Kennedy brood and chased their dogs around the circus-sized tents set up by the Kennedy's for their many social and political events. Our family will never forget the "Blues Brothers Production" the Kennedy family acted out at one of these rallies and sing-alongs for political supporters. They are like a troop of uninhibited traveling performers. My Mother-in-law practically swooned when she met Senator Kennedy and commented on how much he resembled the picture she had of JFK on her living room wall. The entire Kennedy family is a well-oiled political machine.
The fact that the Senator died just before his memoir's release made me want to see it even more. At a hefty length of 532 pages I was hoping to finally hear Senator Edward Kennedy's explanation of a couple of important events in his life that he hasn't been exactly forthright about in the past. The most important of those events was his driving his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969 and swimming to safety while his passenger Mary Jo Kepechne, a campaign worker and maybe much more, drowned.
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