Come to the Edge – A Memoir

The young love life of John F. Kennedy, Jr. – what a topic for a book. When I saw Christina Haag interviewed on a morning talk show, I was hooked, and wanted to read her memoir – “Come to the Edge.” The promise of an insider’s view of the young prince was enticing, since anyone else who knew Kennedy is either dead or not talking.

In a clever prologue, Haag remembers her first real kiss with JFK,Jr. After that, it’s bait and switch. This is Christina Haag’s memoir – her life, her parents, her friends.

Amazingly, she recalls where John John got his hair cut as a child, and because she traveled in the same elite private school circle as a teenager in New York City, she had invitations to parties and gatherings where she witnessed and sometimes participated in JFK, Jr.’s young adult transgressions. When they met again at Brown, they became housemates.

Later, a play about Irish lovers sparks the romance – the rehearsed kisses for their roles become real. Haag recalls their passion, moonlit walks, exciting adventures, and John’s terrifying recklessness (“…don’t tell Mommy, he repeated like a mantra.”). She could be writing a romance novel with sleepovers at Jackie O’s 5th Avenue apartment, the Kennedy Compound, Jackie’s house in New Jersey – magnificent backdrops as Haag vividly describes the settings (not the romps) in detail.

Jackie approved; Ethel didn’t; Rose would like to see him settled. Haag never reveals why they separated. She hints at her acting career, movie star Daryl Hannah, his inability to commit to marriage -to her, but in the end, just calls it bad timing.

Although the prose is flowery and the action self-serving, nothing shocking or new is revealed. Some of Haag’s insider experiences actually bring back the Camelot mystique, and she says nothing to dispel the aura of the former First Lady’s graciousness.

Great way to jump start a career? Haag reveals her reason for writing her story now; life is short for everyone, after all. And now her name will be forever linked with his.

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When NewYork City Bloomed

The cherry blossoms are in bloom in Washington, D.C. and Japan. In New York City, endangered wildflowers are popping through the sidewalks. Anzelone and Hollender call them “…a signal of hope in a concrete landscape…” in their Op-Art piece for the New York Times When New York City Bloomed

When I saw their matrix of wildflowers, I remembered the table of plant illustrations on the cover of Betsey Osborne’s “The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe” – a novel I’ve kept on my shelf just because the layout reminded me of a quilt design.

In Osborne’s novel, Uncas Metcalfe is a botany professor at retirement age, but unwilling to leave the comfort of having a familiar routine. His absent- minded professor antics are endearing, at first, with his befuddled nature and long roots in the small college town with the statue of his colonial namesake. His routine is disrupted by his wife’s illness and his daughter’s return home; his comfortable existence is suddenly threatened. The turning point of the story comes when a former student forces him to see all that he has missed. With a Virginia Woolf style, Osborne takes aim at the ivory tower, a life limited to small boundaries, and a mind not willing to let others in.

But it’s the cover I still like best.

Revenge

Revenge may be sweet, or best served cold – but the target may not even notice. Christie Clancey’s New York Times essay,

Revenge of the Friend

humorously tells of a professional trainer trying to torture her best friend’s ex-husband when he shows up for her spinning class, with his new girlfriend.

When she directs the lothario to the most uncomfortable bike with “narrow saddle…as hard as concrete,” for thirty minutes of hellish biking to the tune of “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” she hoped for an exercise meltdown. Instead, he was oblivious to her ire, and thanked her for the “best workout…in a long time.”

Unless you plan to leave a horse’s head in the bed, revenge is probably not worth the effort.

Night Road – Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah makes me cry – no matter that her characters are stereotyped; her plots are overworked; her messages trite. I kept reading “Night Road,” knowing the perfect family with the overprotective mother and staid doctor father, was literally going to hit a bump in the road.

Jude, the mother who can’t quite connect to her own mother, welcomes Lexi – the poor foster girl whose drug addict mother died in jail – as friends to her twins, Mia and Zachary. Of course, Lexi becomes best friends with Mia and Zach’s first love.

The plot turns with a fatal car accident after a drinking party, weeks before high school graduation. One teenager dies; all others are beyond consolation, especially Jude. Hannah nudges MADD with one of her plot twists, and possibly the prison system with another, but Hannah is no Grisham. Do not expect grand declarations of justice, mercy, or fortitude.

The ending, as always with Hannah, is happily-ever-after. Another quick read…another good cry…another sigh that all is well – at least in the world of fiction.

To read my review of Hannah’s “Winter Garden,” go to Winter Garden

Journey for Margaret

I cannot get an old movie out of my head – “Journey for Margaret” – introducing cry-on-demand child star Margaret O’Brien in a 1942 war movie, based on the real story of a war correspondent’s adoption of a little girl who survived the London Blitz. William L. White’s 1941 book had only one orphan being saved; the movie added a little boy. Most of the other details follow White’s version, except for the ending.

Of course, the ending is still a happy one, with both children coming to America to live a new life with a new family. But, in the movie, the fate of the little boy is tentative, until an old woman, who graciously gives up her luggage allotment for his passage, marks the universal theme – possessions are not as important as people.

Pass the tissues, please.