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Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter Hardcover – October 6, 2015

4.2 out of 5 stars 971 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A well-researched, entertaining, and illuminating biography that should take pride of place over another recent Rosemary bio, Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff's The Missing Kennedy."

The forgotten Kennedy is forgotten no longer. ROSEMARY is a rare thing, a book about the Kennedys that has something new to say.
—Laurence Leamer, author of The Kennedy Women
In her engaging and compassionate ROSEMARY: THE HIDDEN KENNEDY DAUGHTER, Kate Larson illuminates the poignant story of a resolute girl falling behind in a glamorous and competitive family. Rosemary's own story comes alive against the broader and often shocking background of 20th-century attitudes toward the intellectually disabled, and sheds fascinating light on how the characters of Rose Kennedy, Joe Kennedy, and Rosemary's famous siblings were indelibly shaped by her determined yet tragic life.
—Will Swift, author of The Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm

Kate Clifford Larson delivers an engrossing portrait of Rose and Joe Kennedy’s tragic misunderstanding of their oldest daughter’s capabilities, and of how her fate changed the Kennedy family forever.  And yet it is Rosemary herself who shines from the pages of this profoundly revealing family story.
—Marya Hornbacher, author of Madness:  A Bipolar Life

"A biography that chronicles her life with fresh details . . . What makes this story especially haunting are the might-have-beens . . . The first biographer to have access to all of Rosemary’s known letters, replete with typos and lopsided sentence structure, Larson deploys excerpts in heart-rending fashion . . . By making Rosemary the central character, [Larson] has produced a valuable account of a mental health tragedy, and an influential family’s belated efforts to make amends."
-- The New York Times Book Review
-- Wall Street Journal
"Riveting . . . fascinating . . . compelling."
-- Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Compelling psychological, social and political insight."
-- More magazine
"A heartbreaking book that makes clear the pain and passion behind the Kennedy family’s efforts on behalf of the disabled.”
-- BBC.com
"Fascinating but heartbreaking reading . . . [with] questions that will haunt the reader long after the last page is turned."
"Well-researched and fascinating . . . Heartbreaking and illuminating, this will serve not only Kennedy fans but also those curious about the history of disabilities in the U.S.”
-- Booklist

"Well-researched, entertaining, and illuminating."
-- Kirkus Reviews

From the Inside Flap

They were the most prominent American family of the twentieth century. The daughter they secreted away made all the difference.
Joe and Rose Kennedy’s strikingly beautiful daughter Rosemary attended exclusive schools, was presented as a debutante to the queen of England, and traveled the world with her high-spirited sisters. Yet Rosemary was intellectually disabled, a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family.

Major new sources—Rose Kennedy’s diaries and correspondence, letters from Rosemary’s teachers and doctors, and exclusive family interviews—bring Rosemary alive as a girl adored but left far behind by her competitive siblings. Kate Larson reveals both the sensitive care Rose and Joe gave to Rosemary and then—as the family’s standing reached an apex—the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly difficult in her early twenties. Finally, Larson illuminates Joe’s decision to have Rosemary lobotomized at age twenty-three and the family’s complicity in keeping the secret.

Rosemary delivers a profoundly moving coda: JFK visited Rosemary for the first time while campaigning in the Midwest; she had been living isolated in a Wisconsin institution for ten years. Only then did the siblings understand what had happened to Rosemary and bring her home for loving family visits. It was a reckoning that inspired them to direct attention to the plight of the disabled, transforming the lives of millions.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (October 6, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547250258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547250250
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (971 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

From the Publisher

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lyndie B. VINE VOICE on September 14, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Rosemary's story is truly heartbreaking; at many turns her sad fate could have been prevented, but because of the way things were at the time the people in her life didn't know any better. The circumstances of her birth shocked me; I had never ever heard of that practice before and I actually had to put the book down and digest that for a few hours before I picked it up again. Once I got past that initial shock, I could not put the book down. It is so well researched and well written. Not only does it tell Rosemary's story, but has so much information about the early 1900's that I found absolutely fascinating; special education of the time, women's role in society, politics, psychology of the time...the author was so knowledgeable and writes so well that it draws you in and reads like fast paced fiction. She uses personal letters and diaries from Kennedy family members and friends to really give the reader an insight into why things happened the way that they did. It really makes you think about decisions, who in our lives we let influence our decisions, and how those decisions affect our children and our children's children. I absolutely loved this book and will certainly be looking for other things by this author.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I just finished reading this biography of Rosemary Kennedy. I throughly enjoyed it. It is incredibly well researched and well written, the writing is distinctly personal with a familiar ease. Larson writes with a kindness towards the memory of Rosemary that becomes increasingly sensitive and caring as the book progresses. She brings you into the life of Rosemary by way of the lives of her more well known family members and the events they shared. The story of their lives is intensely detailed and always placed in the context of American and, sometimes, world culture and politics as the time. This gives scope to the private struggles of Rosemary and her family.

After hearing about the book I'm glad I didn't jump the gun and read up on Rosemary. Seeing her life story unfold in the pages of this beautiful biography was my patience rewarded. The first few chapters are as much history as biography. Larson delves into the lives of Rose (Rosemary's mother) and Joe (her father) beginning with their childhoods with particular emphasis on family politics and connections. She then lets the story of Rosemary's, and her siblings, early life unfold before getting into the many schools, teachers, and therapies utilized in an effort to cure Rosemary. Interspersed with the difficulties faced by Rosemary and those who cared for her are her public appearances and social outings. While these were carefully planned to hide her limitations they are a delight to read and often brought a smile to my face thinking of the joy Rosemary took in her inclusion with her family at both minor as well as important functions.

While the book is about Rosemary the woman it's equally about her impact on the Kennedy family, the ways it brought them together and how the difficulties faced altered their dynamic.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Larson has synthesized a tremendous amount of research into a compelling narrative of Rosemary, the Kennedy daughter who was hidden away by the family as a result of her mental deficiencies. The Kennedy's were clearly a product of their times. Reading this fascinating book, it's difficult to indict them for what we now know were tragic mistakes. From Rosemary's horrifying birth (I had no idea that what happened when she was born was commonplace at the time!) to her later unfortunate lobotomy, medical personnel honestly thought they were doing the best they could by her. Author Kate Larson writes Rosemary's story very well....I enjoy biographies that, while well-researched, don't bog the reader down with minute details or try to slant the information presented. She tells a story here providing the facts, not editorial, allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions about the decisions made. The book includes photographs as well and is a quick read at 320 pages. I probably read it even faster than I normally would because the narrative was so well done and interesting. If you have any interest in the Kennedy family, who was probably as close to American "royalty" as one can get, I'd highly recommend picking this one up. I think it's especially relevant today given that we are becoming more and more aware of our societal failings with mental health.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a story of a poor little rich girl, Rosemary Kennedy, the hidden Kennedy. Being rich isn't going to solve all your problems, and could just contribute to making them worse.

Starting with a horrific birth practice, Rosemary's life was never easy. Especially in a family that honors competition and winning above all else.

This is also a story of a girl, and then a woman, whose life should never have been as it was. Even after her traumatic birth, it could have been so much better for her. But we certainly don't want to be embarrassed by a child who is "dull" when her eight siblings shine. My gosh, it was hard to live up to the Kennedy name.

The story is straightforward in its telling. Rosemary's story is anything but straightforward. The poor child was bounced around so often that even a normal child without mental disabilities would have trouble coping. And then there was the traumatic and ill-advised surgery, barbaric.

Some of the children were very good with Rosemary, especially Eunice. It seems Joe, Sr. threw money instead of love at the problem. Rosemary adored her father, and would do anything to please him. And Rose, Rosemary's mother, was not very honest about her daughter when she sent her to different schools, and was not honest in her memoirs. When things got tough, it seems her first action of choice was to take a vacation.

Some of the people who took care of Rosemary sound wonderful, and I'm glad Rosemary had those people in her life.

This book caused me some anger, and much sadness. I lost some respect for some people. Fortunately, things have become better when working with people with mental disabilities, but we're far from winning a gold star.

I was given an advance reader's copy of this book for review. Even the advance copy contained some lovely photographs, which I am sure will be even better in the finished, published edition.
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