358 of 375 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2005
I bought this book in an airport because of the cover. The cover photo is one I have in my bedroom. I was in a huge hurry to get a book for the plane ride and I didn't notice the author's name particularly.
I read the entire book on that plane ride and it was an out of body experience for me because I have just recently finished helping my sister die. The book reviewer who treated it as though it were a "Kennedy" book disguised as a memoir and alluded that she was somehow capitalizing on a famous name to sell a book obviously isn't in this club that I now live in. Grief is a horrific world. It's the story of your life and I think she had to tell it to survive.
First of all, it's well written (no joke, the woman is a journalist---they practice the craft daily). This reviewer claims the book is "padded" with her childhood experiences. Excuse me, it's a memoir ! ! ! Childhood MEMORIES are not padding in a MEMOIR. The fact that her marriage -- to a person who is happens to be the maternal cousin of John Kennedy---dominates the book is because that was the biggest "story" in her life. So, naturally, a good writer of a MEMOIR will emphasize the biggest story of their life. And, it's not the biggest story of her life because he had a famous name. It's the biggest story of her life because her husband was handed a death sentence and she had to help him live knowing he was going to die.
This is NOT a "Kennedy" book (didn't know that was a category), it's a memoir that does a most excellent job of describing being in the inner circle of a young person who has been handed a death sentence. I know because I have lived it.
For this author it was her husband. For me, it was my younger sister who got her death sentence at 36. She was single and I "picked my role in the beginning" (a line from the book), I was going to manage it and fix it. Big sister that likes to research and take notes.
This book was a tremendous help to me as I was able to recognize some things and understand some of the things that happened to me. Helping someone die is an honor and it is a trauma and it was the biggest thing that has ever happened to me. My life will be forever defined by it and if I ever have occasion to write a memoir that experience would overshadow marriage, childbirth, career (or being married to someone famous which I'm not and won't but you get my point).
The fact that she was introduced to grief a few weeks before her husband dies (when she loses her best friend Carolyn Bissette Kennedy) is an unfathomable concept to me. I don't know how she survived that.
At any rate, those who are fascinated by the Kennedys will like it because you certainly get a great feel for John and Carolyn. I cried thoughout all Carolyn stories because she sounds so much like my sister who also had a "secret agent voice" calling me all the time "don't tell Mom and Dad, but I'm back in the country..."
My sister was also 5'11, but was referred to as a "six foot blonde". Charming and loving and fluttery long hands...
Anyone who reads this will adore Carolyn Bissette Kennedy.
But what I can't forgive the reviewer for is this bizarre reference to the cancer stuff (you know the pesky medical details that got in the way of voyuering on Kennedys) PLEASE.
I promise if I ever write a memoir there will be bone scan results verbatim.
In one passage the author describes the emotion she feels when a moron who doesn't notice they need assistance, hands her the hotel key and gives her directions to her room down a long, long hallway. Her husband is standing there and that long walk is going to be very painful, but he looks at her with that look that silently pleads for you not to embarrass him. "Don't make a scene, don't demand a closer room or a wheelchair".
You see, her husband was young and handsome and never got comfortable with being old and dying. Similarly, my sister was young and beautiful. She was used to stopping traffic, she certainly didn't like dying.
The author later talks about her resuce fantasies where she goes back and rescues him from that hallway walk that they took.
I have a rescue fantasy about a tarmac in Atlanta and I could see the wheelchairs parked way over by the terminal. It had taken her so long to descend the stairs to the tarmac and she knew I was loaded for bear and ready to bark orders and have someone trot one over to us. Her eyes said "don't do it"...I wish I could go back in time and rescue her from that long walk to the terminal.
So, obviously I identified with the book, but you don't have to have lived that to love this book. It's not a "Kennedy" book and it's not a "cancer" book. If anything it's a "grief" book or a "fate" book. Oh wait a minute, the author put it on the cover. It's a book about fate, friendship and love.
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2006
I just finished the book and said to my husband, "This is a good read", however, I felt a little down and maybe a little spooked by Carole's story as I put the book on a shelf.
I thought her story was very well written. Carole and I are the same age, so I felt that I could relate to her at least on that level; we had similar adolescent experiences. Also, I recognize in her my own sensibility about things, and more than once I caught myself studying her photo on the jacket in an attempt to understand what it was about this stranger that was so familiar to me.
For me, the specifics of her relationship with the Kennedys was an afterthought. That she would lose her husband and such dear friends within mere weeks absolutely haunted me. The fact that John was in the midst of preparing Anthony's eulogy when he himself perished drove the point home to me that I'd better think about my own final curtain call and be grateful for the reminder to live each day to the fullest.
While I read, I would find myself mentally ticking off a list of promising futures cut short by tragedy. Princess Diana, JFK, John Lennon, childhood friends. I like a book that invokes this kind of reflection. It also made me think about what kind of care taker I would be, and I'm made even more mortified by the thought of it.
I think that anyone who is not afraid to read about brutally honest,real-life, no-holds-barred emotion would enjoy this book. If, like me, you have resolved in the New Year to be a more grateful, giving and empathetic person, or if you merely like a good, multi-faceted story, I don't think you'll go wrong here.
93 of 110 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2005
I live in NYC and bought (and read) this book the first day it came out. Of course, anyone with access to People magazine knows the rough outline of Ms. Radziwill's story, but what she does -- through her evocative memories -- is share a privileged glimpse of a couragous and ultimately sorrowful story. While it is said that some of the Kennedys are unhappy with her memoir, I completely disagree -- Ms. Radziwill's story of her love for her husband and the life they shared, and her friends John and Carolyn Kennedy, is her own. Because if one does not own their own story, what do they have?
Having said that, I am in awe of Ms. Radziwill's strength, and her courage. "What Remains" is a remarkable story of love and loss in the face of a world that will sometimes break your heart.
Finally, Ms. Radziwill is a hell of a writer. This book will be a classic. I hope she continues -- if I could, I would give the book ten stars.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2005
What Remains after the core of your life is lost? What Remains after fate takes two of your closest friends in a freak accident and your husband dies of cancer all in one month? What Remains is, as always, the living - in this case Carole Radziwill. And the memories.
This is a story within a story. Set in the very public and prominent Kennedy clan's world, it is an honest view of globally recognizable figures - John Jr. and his wife Carolyn - and Carole's husband, Anthony - John's first cousin. There is no "dirt" here, rather a testament to their genuiness and compassion. You will connect with them in a real way, as real people, seeing them through the eyes of a friend - not with rose colored glasses either, but with clear glimpses into very personal moments only accessible to one so close, and those glimpses are very telling.
And yet, this is much more so a story of courage and the strength of the human spirit - the ability to realize a dream and the will to go on when one's world crumbles. It is a tale of one woman's hard work, risk, accomplishment and the consuming impact of terminal illness. A tale of improbable love and kinship, and the vagaries of fate - or chance. It is a Cinderella story with a very hard dose of reality thrown in - a bittersweet roller coaster ride. One that, regardless of setting and characters, would be both sad and inspiring - a valuable and rewarding read.
While reading the book, I saw Ms. Radziwill on Oprah being interviewed. She was asked a question about John and Carolyn Kennedy's marriage - it lead to whether they had sought marriage counseling. As with the entire story her answer was honest - she said they had - but insightful - she commented that sometimes people confuse `fact' with truth. She expounded - the fact was they had, but the truth was they loved each other and were working to strengthen their marriage.
The fact is Ms. Radziwill is a gifted, brutally honest and self-aware writer; the truth is she is what we all hope we would be both in realizing our potential and in confronting some of the most difficult losses imaginable. Her ordinary beginnings make you believe you just might be so. Man or woman - I highly recommend this book.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2005
I couldn't stop reading this book. I appreciated Carole Radziwill's honest description of the battle they fought with cancer...I was amazed at how many surgeries Anthony endured during the five years after he was diagnosed. After staying up until midnight to finish the book I went to bed with the overwhelming feeling that life is a gift and that at this moment there are so many ill people who would give anything to have the health and happiness that I am daily taking for granted.
It was so nice to see a depiction of Carolyn Bessette as a warm and funny human being. I've always thought there had to be so much more to her than the one-dimensional portrait the media gave us. There was no speculation on the state of her marriage with JFK, JR., and I respect that about the author.
Her stories about her career at ABC were fascinating. Clearly, her work life and marriage were such a contrast with her very humble upbringing. Despite her loyalty to Anthony, I sometimes got the impression that she wasn't sure that she wanted to be in the marriage...before he proposed, and then during it.
I also found her comments about Caroline Kennedy interesting...as if she did not care to reach out and develop relationships with Carole or Carolyn Bessette.
One of the more fascinating aspects of the book is how she has to fit in with the Radziwill family. And I found it interesting that after her marriage she makes little mention in the book of spending time with her own family.
Anyway, I do recommend this book. However, I took it back to the library right away today, because the story is so sad and I didn't want the book hanging around my house constantly reminding me of how your life can change in an instant.
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2005
If you're a thinker and like to be pulled into a story, particularly a true one, this is really worth the time. The author doesn't just tell the typical chronological account of her life (which can be so boring - I started out a baby, blah, blah, blah) but rather embeds glances back in time at appropriate points to describe the rich tapestry that is her life. She uses amusing anecdotes and personal accounts of day to day life with JFK Jr, his wife Carolyn and her husband Anthony to allow you to relate to them in a way that "tell all" books (which are usually half BS anyway) don't. A very interesting view I've never seen in other accounts.
The thing I found most amazing is - when I bought the book, I thought I was going to read a story about a blue collar girl who gets all sorts of doors open for her by marrying into this famous family. Instead I was stunned by her accomplishments before she even met her husband. She put herself through college, started as an unpaid intern at ABC - became essentially a secretary and worked her way up to an Emmy award winning producer! She traveled alone to Cambodia in her 20's to interview the Khmer Rouge! Courage doesn't even come close to describing this. A very pleasant surprise in the book, and one that certainly made me respect the rest of what she was saying. Her accomplishments are uplifting and give credibility to her writing.
But at the end of the day this book is about the impact of death - anticipated death and sudden death. And I know how that feels. My father was about to die after a long illness and while certainly different than what happened to the author, I thought I had a support system in my healthy mother who I thought would live on. She went into a coma suddenly 1 week before my father died and she too died shortly thereafter. This is the first time that I have read a book that even comes close to describing the feelings and impact of dealing with long term illness (denial, guilt and much more) and the effect of losing the support system you thought you would have left.
She absolutely hits the nail on the head. We all have to deal with love, loss and what remains at some time in our lives. This book gives insight into that and it will make you appreciate whatever you have all the more.
84 of 107 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2005
I bought and read this book because it was on many "must read" lists and Carole received an abundance of praise for her style. Her writing is lyrical and her style unique. However, as she openly admits, the book was therapy for her. But one woman's literary therapy does not necessarily tranlate into interesting subject matter for the reader. Personally, I found the endless (or what seemed like endless) chapters on her late husband's surgeries, tiresome to read about. Her subtle (or not so subtle) attacks on Caroline Kennedy seem somewhat out of place and catty, especially given the reflective tone of the book. For example, one gets the distinct notion from reading the book that Caroline did not care for either Carole or Carolyn Bessette-that she did not approve of her brother's marriage. Carole may want us to believe it is pure blue blood snobbery that got in the way of any impending friendship between the three. Yet, as she goes on to describe their habits and behaviors- purchasing Cartier toe rings for example, one cant help but understand why a woman like Caroline Kennedy, might have disdain for her sister/cousin in-laws. Lastly, I guess I was hoping for a love story and quite frankly, I found that there was more chemistry depicted between Carolyn Bessette and Carole Radziwill than between Carole and her late husband. The book left me unsettled in that regard. Is the author grieving her loss of a soulmate or her loss of a lifestyle? These are the question I was left with as I finished the book.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2005
My apologies if my perpetually-on reading light bothered you on my flights from Maui to L.A. to Seattle and part of the way back last week. You see, I was reading What Remains by Carole DiFalco Radziwill and couldn't put the book down. I'll limit my superlatives to awesome, beautiful, and stunning. Awesome storytelling, beautiful literary passages, stunning honesty.
Many of you probably loved The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, who was kind enough to give Carole a great book jacket plug. My reading group liked that memoir, yet many of us agreed that something was missing. Jeannette wrote an awesome story with her razor-sharp intellect. But her heart was absent. We questioned Jeannette's cool Wonder Woman reaction to her supremely dysfunctional parents and upbringing, and began to doubt her veracity in some of the more traumatic episodes.
You won't have that problem with this memoir. Ms. Radziwill puts her heart and soul and intellect on display in this work. That's why she gets an A for stunning honesty in crafting an unforgettable story told in so many haunting passages. No fawning over her Radziwill-Kennedy connection appears. Instead, she shares her most private thoughts and misgivings about that link, as well as her own working-class roots, her marriage to Anthony Radziwill, the tragic plane crash that killed JFK Jr. and his wife Carolyn (Carole's closest friend), and her excruciating battle with the cancer that killed her husband.
Any negatives? Okay, I'll be picky and admit that I felt some attempt by an upstate-raised writer to emphasize her roots and connections to New York City, but in my woeful ignorance, I remain grateful for the lessons. And Carole's bashing of "tragedy whores" did give me some "me thinks thou protests too much" moments, but then, I've never had to face such perverse adulation.
And please, former reviewers, spare us the "She's trading on her Radziwill name" to write this memoir. I'll bet ninety percent of Americans wouldn't know a Radziwill from a turnip. This baby would be a best-seller if Carole had chosen to use DiFalco, Jones, or whatever as the second-half of her nom de plume. It's just that good. Buy it.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2005
A devastating Cinderella story. No one really has it all. This is a very brave and emotional look behind the curtain. From the author and her husband's beautiful, fairy-tale wedding - "Women in red lipstick and men in cream-colored pants with dark sport coats are sipping cocktails against the ocean breeze" - including a glimpse of what's ahead -- "I will not see the bump tonight. I won't see it until the end of our honeymoon on a beach in Hawaii" - to the unexpected setting of the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. "[The] NIH doesn't look like a hospital, or feel like one ... The buildings are nestled in a leafy, oak-tree suburb ... away from New York, from home, away from people who know us, who might see us going into and out of hospitals. To have our cancer in Washington is a luxury."
In the corridors and outside on the grounds Carole and close friends help Anthony "sneak" out, pack up his drainage tubes in a duffel bag. They snatch the fun out of life when they can grab it. You read helplessly, however, as the author withdraws ... shuts down, tries to hold together while her husband's cancer progresses. As she realizes, but can't say, that there is little or no hope. She comes to rely on her best friend and new family member Carolyn Bessette to keep it all bright. It's an amazing book. It's heartbreaking. I read it twice, I couldn't help myself. I fell in love with these people, I wanted to help. I wanted to fix things.
It's a tribute to the author that it isn't steeped in sentimentality ... there's no "poor me". She tells a remarkable and deeply affecting story about living the life you have. About showing up every day, and she tells it beautifully.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2006
Having watched a loved one die slowly of cancer, I had a visceral reaction to this terribly sad story of a young woman who meets the man of her dreams, through him meets the female friend of her heart, and does NOT live happily ever after. Because on the last day of their romantic honeymoon, the happy young couple finds a small lump on his abdomen...
I applaud the fact that the "Kennedy-ness" of this story takes a back seat. The young woman, Carole DeFalco, meets and marries Anthony Radziwill, son of Jacqueline Kennedy's sister Lee. And the friends of their heart are John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Carolyn. Is it really that important? These are people, with real feelings and real tragedies that no amount of fame and money can stop.
Unlike some other reviewers, I found Carole's description of her decidedly middle-class upbringing engaging, funny, and interesting. Yes, I got the point--she was not raised with a silver spoon in her mouth--but it did not offend me, rather it delighted me.
What really drew me in, though, was her unblinkingly honest tale of what it really feels like to have a loved one slowly eaten away by this vicious disease. You want to run; so did she. You nastily wish the sick person would just get it over with and die; so did she. You are in the depths of despair so deep that you don't even recognize your own depression; so was she. You feel overwhelming guilt for having any feelings of your own; so did she. You fight to be able to control the uncontrollable; so did she.
But right beside her, offering unconditional love, support, humor, fun, and above all, life, was her dear friend Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her irrascible husband John, who was raised with Anthony and considered him a brother. Just when Anthony is in his last horrible days of his disease, Carolyn and John are killed in that fateful plane crash. We get a behind-the-scenes view of the frantic phone calls, denial, anguish, and finally acceptance by their loved ones, including Carole, who, staying at the Kennedys' Martha's Vineyard house with her moribund husband, was the first to get the news that the plane was missing, and the first to make the horrible phone calls she had to make.
I found this book extremely powerful, well-written and moving, and well worth the read. And I applaud the bravery in writing it.