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The Kennedy Heirs: John, Caroline, and the New Generation by J. Randy Taraborrelli, St. Martin’s Press, US $29.99, Pp 608, June 2019, ISBN 978-1250174062

The Kennedys have been the most prominent dynasty in America over the last seven decades. They have played prominent roles in the political and cultural life of Americans. The name Kennedy can inflame as much as it inspires respect. There are people for whom the very name stirs up anger and resentment. Their critics believe the Kennedys especially those of the third and fourth generations were spoiled nobility who were used to getting away with bad behavior and never suffering true consequences because of it. In The Kennedy Heirs, J. Randy Taraborrelli explores the history of the last four generations of the Kennedys. He says that there have certainly been times of great disgrace — many of which have to do with self-inflicted tragedies — that remains an integral part of the Kennedys’ history. However, even those parents, sons and daughters of this American dynasty who have at times been perhaps not so deserving of our admiration still have certain traits instantly recognizable not only in people we know and love but maybe in ourselves too.

J. Randy Taraborrelli starts his story of the Kennedys with Joseph Patrick Kennedy Sr. (1888) and his wife, Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald Kennedy (born1890) whom he considers the first generation for this sturdy. The Kennedy Heirs is about mainly the third and fourth generations that spanned 1960 and beyond. A lot of people seem to think that the Kennedys did nothing or very little of any significance to change our culture. They were all raised to have a strong sense of belonging to the nobility. J. Randy Taraborrelli argues that this is wrong. Maybe that is true of President Kennedy in the White House, but not about many of them. J. Randy Taraborrelli says that many of them contributed a great deal to the nation and the world, if not in elected office, then as activists. Ethel’s daughters Rory and Kerry made films about poverty and travel the world as warriors for social justice, for instance. Eunice’s son Tim Shriver runs his mother’s Special Olympics. Jackie’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy works tirelessly to raise funds for education. These are surely not modest causes. Some would change the world in small ways in the private sector, others in much bigger manner while in public office. The number of legislation, for instance, either sponsored or cosponsored by Ted’s son Patrick Kennedy during his many years in government amounts to 3156. J. Randy Taraborrelli writes, “Put it this way: There aren’t many who do nothing with their lives.”

It is true that some of their experiences have been amplified tenfold because of money, power, and prestige. Also, fame does tend to twist everything. However, J. Randy Taraborrelli says, at the heart of their stories are the kinds of choices similar to those we may have made in our own lives as we have attempted to navigate the sometimes rocky terrain of getting along with parents, siblings, and children. J. Randy Taraborrelli writes, “I believe we can relate to the Kennedys on a deep visceral level that has to do with a thing so basic and so uncomplicated: our shared humanity. This is why the Kennedys’ story continues to resonate. Plus, the many tragedies of their lives have reached out to us over the years, causing our hearts to ache unbearably for them.”

The Kennedy Heirs is an authoritative addition to the already existing literature on one of the most celebrated dynasties in America. It is a very well researched work on the Kennedys. Based on twenty-year-long research and hundreds of interviews, J. Randy Taraborrelli has produced an encyclopedic but highly readable volume on the Kennedy. He has brought all the Kennedys to life for you in this book. He is without a doubt a leading historian of the Kennedys. It is a scholarly volume that is written for lay people. As Kennedys are an integral part of American, The Kennedy Heirs is actually about America.

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