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When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maineby Monica Wood
Synopses & Reviews
1963 Mexico, Maine: The Wood family is much like its close, Catholic, immigrant neighbors, all dependent on the fathers' wages from the Oxford Paper Company. Until the sudden death of Dad, when this family of now-only-women (Monica is one of four daughters) is set adrift. Incandescent, funny, and to-the-bone moving, When We Were the Kennedys is the story of how a family saves itself--first by depending on Father Bob, youngest brother of Monica's mother, a Catholic priest who feels his new family responsibilities deeply. And then, as the nation is shocked by the loss of its handsome Catholic president, Jackie Kennedy's televised grace restores the Woods--who are now strong enough themselves to stage an unprecedented family roadtrip to Washington, DC, to save Father Bob from his own griefs. An indelible story of how family and nation , each shocked by the unimaginable, exchange one identity for another. "Every few years, a memoir comes along that revitalizes the form, that takes us by the hand and leads us into the dream world of our collective past from which we emerge more wholly ourselves . . . When We Were the Kennedys is a deeply moving gem!"—Andre Dubus III , author of House of Sand and Fog and Townie
"In this amiable, specific glimpse of life in smalltown, 1960s-era Maine, novelist Wood (Any Bitter Thing), revisits the untimely death of her father, who was, like most of the locals, a shift worker at the omnipotent paper mill. From their crowded third-floor apartment, the four sisters and their mother mourn while struggling to reimagine their lives without him. Told mostly from the author's fourth-grade point-of-view, Wood recalls the stoic, tender emotions of her sisters — playful, younger Cathy; mentally disabled Betty; and maternal high school English teacher Anne. Thanks to life insurance and social security checks, the younger girls are able to stay at their Catholic school and their mother never has to get a job 'scrubbing floors,' though she starts keeping 'secret sleeping hours.' The girls' priest uncle, Father Bob, stretches himself to become the family's male role model, then succumbs to nervousness and alcoholism, landing in an institution near Washington, D.C. Just as the women plan a road trip to visit him, President Kennedy is assassinated, and Wood conjectures that what happened to her family is now happening to the Kennedys and 'the whole country.' They tour the nation's capitol meditating on Jackie while surrendering their grief. Breaking the tidy narration of the book, the author jumps to her college days at Georgetown University and to the death of her mother. But thankfully she switches back to her theme about how a refreshingly functional family learns to accept loss and preserve love. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Monica Wood's moving memoir of the season in 1963 Mexico, Maine, as she, her mother, and her three sisters healed after the loss of their mill-worker father and then the nation's loss of its handsome young Catholic president.
Winner of the 2012 Sarton Memoir Award
“Every few years, a memoir comes along that revitalizes the form…With generous, precise, and unsentimental prose, Monica Wood brilliantly achieves this . . . When We Were the Kennedys is a deeply moving gem!”—Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog and Townie
Mexico, Maine, 1963: The Wood family is much like its close, Catholic, immigrant neighbors, all dependent on the fathers wages from the Oxford Paper Company. But when Dad suddenly dies on his way to work, Mum and the four deeply connected Wood girls are set adrift. When We Were the Kennedys is the story of how a family, a town, and then a nation mourns and finds the strength to move on.
“On her own terms, wry and empathetic, Wood locates the melodies in the aftershock of sudden loss.”—Boston Globe
“[A] marvel of storytelling, layered and rich. It is, by turns, a chronicle of the renowned paper mill that was both pride and poison to several generations of a town; a tribute to the ethnic stew of immigrant families that grew and prospered there; and an account of one familys grief, love, and resilience.”—Maine Sunday Telegram
A memoir of the season when a family lost its father and the nation lost its president.
Mexico, Maine, 1963: The Wood family is much like its close, Catholic, immigrant neighbors, all dependent on the fathers' wages from the Oxford Paper Company. But when Dad suddenly dies on his way to work one April morning, Mum and the four deeply connected Wood girls are set adrift. Funny and to-the-bone moving, When We Were the Kennedys is the story of how this family saves itself, at first by enlisting the help of Mum's brother, Father Bob, a charismatic Catholic priest. And then, come November—her brother still overwhelmed by grief, her country shocked by the president's death, and her town bracing for a labor strike—Mum announces an unprecedented family road trip. Inspired by the televised grace of Jackie Kennedy, herself a new widow with young children, Mum and her girls head to "our nation's capital" to do some rescuing of their own. An indelible story of how family and nation, each shocked by the unimaginable, exchange one identity for another.
About the Author
Monica Wood is the author of When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine. Her 2005 novel Any Bitter Thing spent 21 weeks on the American Booksellers Association extended bestseller list and was named a Book Sense Top Ten pick. Her other fiction includes Ernie’s Ark and My Only Story, a finalist for the Kate Chopin Award.
Table of Contents
Prologue: My Mexico xiii
1. Morning 1
2. Wake 21
3. Hiding 35
4. Explorers 55
5. Too Much Stairs 77
6. Paper 97
7. Three Vanillas 111
8. Offer It Up 123
9. The Mystery of the Missing Man 137
10. Just Nervous 149
11. Widows Instructions 165
12. Our Nations Capital 179
13. Anniversary 199
14. I Hear Music 213
Epilogue: New Page 223
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