on March 29, 2011
When you think about it, no one else -- none of the "other women" in John Kennedy's life (even his late wife, may she rest in peace) -- could have told this story. Ms. Haag, after all, was there from the very beginning. From those early 1970s teenage years in NY, through college days as housemates, through acting roles together and their ultimate courtship and five year romance, Haag may arguably be the only woman in the world who knew John, in his tragically too-short life, in all these myriad ways, and over so many decades.
Certainly no one could have told the story better, with more grace, more beauty, more heart.
COME TO THE EDGE is a radiant piece of work. Like all fine memoirs, it tells us something about being human: about what it's like to become vulnerable to another human being, about dreams, about coming of age, about crisis of faith -- about many of the themes that our greatest writers have tackled from time eternal. Though Haag's story is inherently a personal one, nonetheless on every page the reader has a shock of recognition from the truth and beauty of which she writes.
Haag has given us an insight into the Kennedy family, particularly John and his mother, never before seen. Never sensational, never titillating, this elegant memoir is limned in gorgeous prose that sometimes breaks your heart with its purity and insight. And the bravery with which Haag shares her own "postscript" at the end of the book will take your breath away.
A fabulous, memorable read, and a must for anyone interested in cultural history, memoir, and the sweet, vanished time that was NYC in the '60s-'80s.
on March 30, 2011
Christina Haag has written one of the rare books about John Kennedy, Jr. which tells us more about who he was without trying to "make " it a best seller through gossip and tattling. She knew him as a best friend as well as a lover and uses her experiences with him to give his life depth of meaning and fullness. We see, through her eyes, a young teen who grows into an unsure young adult who matures into a profoundly kind and sensitive man. He has humor as well as a temper, he has doubts as well as endless courage. She also treats his mother as a woman of grace and elegance, but a warm and empathic person---these two Kennedys, in particluar, don't usually get treated with such convincing courtesy. I have read all the Kennedy materials....I have only admired a few books. But I truly loved this one. Ms Haag can really, really write. She has a sophisticated style that seems effortless. She has years of journals which helped her recreate this love story, and I am so glad she did so. This book is a tribute to a romance which soared, a man who took the risk of love, a woman who was wise enough to celebrate being drenched in his affection, and the aftermath which breaks the reader's heart. Thank you for sharing the glow with us, and telling the tale so eloquently.
on March 29, 2011
The longtime girlfriend of John F. Kennedy, Jr. --- a woman he should have married, and didn't --- writes a book about their long friendship, glorious romance and fraught break-up.
On the plus side: Her memory is buttressed by decades of journals, and she makes a good-girl's effort to tell the truth.
On the minus side: She's an actress, that is, a woman most at home when not herself. And he was the stud muffin of a generation, an athlete dying young; you do not write ill of such a man.
What are the odds that Christina Haag could write a better-than-average memoir about her life with John Kennedy?
In fact, Christina Haag has written a surprisingly fine book.
They met as teenagers, in that special Upper East Side hothouse of private schools and privilege. They were not exactly equals --- her father was the son of a railroad foreman, and his father was...well, you know. But he was skinny and exuberant, fond of flipping water balloons out the windows of Fifth Avenue apartments, and she was dark and poetic, a budding actress. They hung out, walking through the park at night, Secret Service agents following.
They both go to Brown, where they share a house. (Another roommate is Christiane Amanpour, then known as "Kissy.") Like dogs, they travel in packs; they see a lot of one another, but romance never ignites. After graduation, Christina takes up with a fellow actor --- Bradley Whitford, later a mainstay on "The West Wing" --- and John bounces from woman to woman.
And then they connect.
Yes, she writes that first kiss like a romance novelist, but why not? They'd known each other for almost a decade, the pent-up curiosity was huge, and --- not a small point --- that kiss was electrifying. It sealed the deal.
Young love. Such intensity. And such drama. John is fidelity-challenged --- shades of you know who. And Christina is intent on an acting career, which means extended time in Los Angeles. Add to that that he's made a wrong turn --- he wanted to be an actor, but chose law school because he felt the tug of the family business. When it's like that, it doesn't really matter how kind, funny, caring and handsome someone is.
Haag traces the beats of the relationship, the quiet weekends, the exciting trips, the glittering family time. She doesn't pump it up, she just lays it out, holding out memories like jewels. "How lucky I was to have had all this," she says, between the lines, but she has it wrong --- how lucky he was to have had her.
Daryl Hannah shows up, and others, and there's a lot of making up and breaking up. "He'll leave you, one day he'll leave you," Bradley Whitford tells her, but that's wrong. Had they continued, Christina would have discovered that her resemblance to John's mother was superficial --- she couldn't put up with the cheating.
What's best about the book, for many readers, I suspect, is that it's the first credible portrait of John Kennedy, Jr. He's not that smart. He's had no father. His mother terrifies him. He doesn't have the courage to stand up to his family and declare his interest in acting. In a word, he's lost. And so he throws himself into extreme sports and blood-tingling hook-ups --- anything to feel the vitality of his own life. His death seals him as a tragic figure, but some kind of bad end was inevitable. Tragedy was his birthright. The poor bastard was doomed.
Christina Haag is now 50. She's not a star, she's had some bad bounces. But she has a sweet spirit, a generous character. I can see --- and so will you --- what John Kennedy Jr. saw in her. And what he threw away.
on April 4, 2011
This is a story of a boy and a girl who met as young teens, later fell in love, and changed each other's lives forever. As noted in the book, Christiane Amanpour described John Kennedy as "an ordinary boy in extraordinary circumstances." Christina Haag paints a vivid picture of their time together, before, during and after their romance. A picture of the ordinary boy, and the way in which those extraordinary circumstances shaped the man and affected their relationship.
This book touched me in ways I can't even begin to describe. I was nearly 11 years old when President Kennedy was assassinated, old enough to witness, to understand and to mourn. I saw the three year old John salute his father's casket and, along with the rest of the world, I watched him and his sister, Caroline, grow up in the public eye. I felt compassion for the man who could not walk down the street, or fail a bar exam without starting a media frenzy.
Christina has given John the humanity, dignity and vulnerability which was never attributed to him by the press. She depicts him as an intelligent, gifted, fun-loving and adventurous man with a great capacity to love. Flawed, as we all are, but not just the "hunk" he was all too often depicted as. This aspect of the book, the fact that Christina told their story with objectivity, was as important to me as the story of the love they shared, a love that was both exhilarating and heartbreaking. A love so strong, that John continues to make his presence known to her, years after his death . . . through an old newspaper clipping falling out of a book that had been tucked away for years, a little girl spinning and singing "Do you know where John Kennedy is?" and in dreams. I firmly believe that one day, when Christina needs it most, the lost compass will turn up.
When I came to the last page, I couldn't help but wonder "What if?" Read the book. You won't regret it.
on April 16, 2014
In a causal browsing through the Kindle offerings, I found “Come to the Edge: A Love Story” by Christina Haag and I am so glad I did. I have always enjoyed auto-biographies and memoirs. The really moving ones deal with not only the joys and successes of life but also the challenges and low points. Christina Haag’s recent memoir is such an example.
I have not read any book on John F. Kennedy Jr. somewhat intentionally. I am not generally drawn toward the sensational, gossipy, or any work which may pander to lowest levels of humanity. This reaction may be a typical critique of my generation who generally were taught to avoid being the subject of anything in public sans a wedding announcement. I happen to be two years older than JFK Jr. and one year younger than Caroline Kennedy. Consequently their imagines are imprinted in the photo album of my memory. While most of us enjoy the guilty pleasure of reading about the rich and famous, I was hesitate to read this memoir. After all what more can one learn about JFK Jr. or his family? Well, what I thought I knew about the American Prince came more media lore mixed with faux news reports than from first person accounts or history books of his father and mother. However, for me this memoir is about young love and the frustrations trying to figure out one’s life aims and loves which just so happens to involve JFK Jr. At times this memoir is part confessional and often melancholy for this reader as I anticipated the news of JFK Jr.’s untimely death as told through the author’s experience. I found myself wanting the author to work things out with JFK and yet knowing the story of his tragic death grateful she lives to tell this story of her life which is also very interesting separate from her associations with Kennedy.
Haag paints a picture of Kennedy who is both privileged enough to have innumerable choices in life but also one of the tragic hero who is could not find a way to follow the path of life which seemed most suited to him.
Sometimes I read a book and I will be so touched by it that I don't want it to end. This memoir is one of them. Have you ever enjoyed a novel to the point of putting off finishing it just so you don’t have say good bye to the characters? Well be warned. I did not want to put this book back on the virtual shelf. I wanted to savor the insights, of which there were several, as well as the joys these two people experienced by knowing each other.
I can not imagine too many of us would want a former lover to write details about our dating lives. Yet, Haag offers an example of how to engage our past, embrace our vulnerable self and to even touch the Holy as one heals from emotional scars of life. As a trained spiritual director I found Haag’s description at the monastery to be surprisingly accurate with my own experience as well as candid in her search for meaning in life. Being close to the author’s age, I find myself in a reflective mood of late and wondering about choices I've made or didn't make. Did a particular choice open opportunities or close them?
Bravo, Ms. Haag, on writing this book and for being so authentic. Well done.
on March 25, 2015
Christina Haag's memoir, Come To The Edge, A Love Story, is gripping and intimate, an American tale of life and love, an ongoing tragedy, an affair of the heart, an engrossing sharing of two minds, a best friendship, a gathering of family, a table of friends. Christina, a beautiful Juilliard actress, from Broadway to Shakespeare, to the big screen and television, is schooled in NYC with JFK, Jr, knows him well, attends Brown University with him, rooms with him, and later, loves with him. Through divine poetry and prose, through the tender and dreamy verse of a woman in love, she discovers herself, her needs, her gifts, her purpose. She learns what moves and drives her...and him.
This is a book for everyone to fall into, winds to the currents, all bets off. No matter who you are, no matter what you think you may know of John, you never really knew him, not in the beautifully rich and dreamy way Christina did...and does. He is so much within and around her. You will fall in love with Christina, her magnetic charm and appeal, her gift for the stage, her verve for life and family and all things new and challenging, her vitality and durability, her willingness to remain true to herself; in love, she is prepared to give her heart to a man she adores, despite her fierce attention to self, which, in the end, defines her and keeps her whole and sane.
John was an enigma, a riddle to most of us, briefly moving through this life, and never once conforming to what the world had expected of him. He was a philosopher, a thinker, a young man with dreams and ambitions all his own, a beautiful soul, and Christina, vivacious, alluring and unique, was his love, and, it would seem, will always be. You will see that the son of Camelot was complex and flawed, yet full of compassion and warmth.
Death can pry us from our hearts, obliterate courage, tear with gusto the delicate assembly of what we think we know and what we want to be. When challenged, we can wilt, but Christina will move on, much on the strength of her character and will, much at the expense of what she thought might destroy her.
A literary alchemist, Ms. Haag takes an ordinary love story and brings us to a golden universe of experience ~ tenderness, sexual energy, small talk turned meaningful, the touch of the hand, the curling of the lip, the all powerful embrace. This truly is a luscious love story, a book without pretense, without over indulgence, an authentic and masterful expose. Grab a hold of this book, take it to bed with you and allow the poetry of Haag's writing to nestle in places only you dare go.
on April 6, 2011
Christina Haag has written a TERRIFIC book about her relationship with John K.
I was skeptical at first, but Come to the Edge completely blew me away. If you knew John, as I did, his presence in these pages will startle you. And if you didn't, you will experience the wonderful, adventurous, thoughtful, smart, funny, kind guy that he was. Christina has accomplished what no other book before has.
This is a love story, but it is also a moment captured, it describes an exciting time in New York City and Christina's book reminded me of how much fun we had. It's about youth, and the excitement and passion of embracing life and I think there is a universality.....
Ok...whatever, Listen up. Come to The Edge is a wonderful book that I ripped straight through and I bet you will too. I recommend you to read it before THIS moment passes. I loved it.
on April 9, 2011
It can be very difficult to find dignity in today's world, where everything seems to fall to the lowest common denominator of a tabloid headline. But dignity is exactly what I found in Christina Haag's memoir, in her story and in her telling of it.
Her love story is at once warm and heart-breaking (much like JFK Jr. himself, I would imagine). Ms. Haag writes with clarity and eloquence, but to me what makes the story work so well is her independent spirit. Like any true romance, Haag's relationship with JFK Jr. shaped part of her life, but it does not define her. This adds depth and richness to her storytelling, which make the book immensely satisfying and even poetic. It also gives credibility to the portraits she paints of JFK Jr., his mother and the world in which they lived. Portraits that are a refreshing departure from what we've come to accept as truth about people we never really knew.
As I got further into the story I kept thinking to myself about "what might have been." What if they had stayed together? What if they had married? My heart ached for their lost love. And I wanted a different ending for him. However, Haag's story made me believe that if their love had survived "what might have been" was her life lost in the crash. As one might imagine, the book provokes thoughts of circumstance and fate.
This is a fantastic read on many levels. It is a personal story, an intimate tribute to an American icon, and an exploration of love and loss. A treasure!
on April 5, 2011
If you were a follower of John Jr. and the Kennedy's this book will feed your curiosity. If you were single and in your 20-30's in the 80's you will relate to the parties, college and friendships. If you have ever loved and lost this story will spell bind you. This is possibly the most beautiful love story I've read. It is real, honest and raw at times. Your heart will ache for days after you read it but you will feel honored for being invited to be a part of it.
on April 16, 2011
This is an elegant and well written memoir by a woman who, as a peer and childhood friend, hung out in the same group of friends with JFKjr. from the time they were about 14-15 years old and eventually even became one of his housemates in college. A few years after college, while performing together in a play in NYC, they fell in love and had a 5-year romance, which she says, finally ended due to bad timing - but not a lack of love. A lot of insight is given into John and his mother but none of it is sensationalized or exploitive. The love and admiration Christina Haag still feels for both JFKjr and his mother oozes out of this book.
I believe one of the reasons this book was written was to, rightfully, make their very substantial and nearly life-long relationship an official part of the John F. Kennedy Jr. narrative, where otherwise it probably would have gotten lost in the more sensationalized and obvious chronicle and myth. Also, I think Ms. Haag was very hurt that he chose to get married in the little church they discovered together and where he first told her that he loved her. She doesn't dwell upon this, but it is mentioned in such a way that, as a woman, I can imagine that she was stung by his decision to have his wedding there and that to some extent it still stings. I hope she had the opportunity to at least tell him this at some point. Men can be clueless, even nice men, which JFK jr. most definitely comes across as in this book.