At age 31 Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy became the First Lady and thus the most recognized woman in the world. Three years later, at age 34, she witnessed the bloody murder of her husband on that dreadful day in Dallas. For the next four days this young woman shared her private loss in a very public way, as she "showed the country how to grieve." If she did nothing else with her life Jackie Kennedy would still be remembered as a very remarkable person. But, thanks to Donald Spoto's serious, yet warm and sympathetic biography we have a fuller picture of Jacquelie Bouvier Kennedy-Onassis long before Dallas and for the remaining thirty years of her significant life.
This book is not for those interested in the dirt and dish that so mistakenly is perceived as fact when writing about the Kennedys. There is none of that here. Rather, Spoto approaches his subject with a desire to understand the person by searching for the purpose and meaning she gave to her experiences, as recounted by those who knew her best. He writes in a style that is gaceful and respectful, mirroring his life as a monk, as well as the way Mrs. Kennedy-Onassis tried to live her life.
With all her wealth, opportunity, and experiences, Spoto emphasizes that her greatest accopmlishement in this extraordinary life was simply that she was a devoted and loving mother to her two children. A complex task for us all, made more difficult by having to parent under the constant glare of public curiosity.
Perhaps the most telling passage of the book, one that speaks to the truer character of JBKO, is when she was asked why she never chose to respond to the tabliods, the critics, or myriad of others who fed off her celebrity status. In other words, to just give her side of the story! Her reply was that the dirt and gossip would continue, she could not control that, but she faithfully believed that "they can never steal my soul." Therefore, no explaination, clarification or defense was necessary.
Those who admire Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and seek to explore the depth of her life beyond the myths, you will find this book worth reading. For those looking for something else -- keep searching.