The Kennedy Debutante: A Novel. Kerri Maher. Penguin Publishing Group. October 2018. 384 pp. ISBN#: 978451492043.
Kathleen (“Kick”) Kennedy is the vivid debutante of this novel, a story that captures the essence of the Kennedy clan’s powerful presence, but which presents this famous woman as complex, fearless, socially adept, and devout. She’s a woman of her own character, living out her blend of service and compassion for and within the formidable issues of her time.
The novel begins with Kick’s “coming out” party. Like any normal debutante, Kick loves to party and is only held in check by her mother Rose, a formidable woman who monitors “everything” about every one of her children. Kick’s father, Joe, is obsessed with his effect and that of his children and we later see how he comes to respect Kick’s presence and then her ideas which might enhance his position as America’s Ambassador to England. But Kick is definitely her own woman!
Two challenging issues face Kick within this account. One is falling in love with a member of British aristocracy, Billy Harrington. He and his family are staunchly Protestant and Kick’s equally strong practice of Catholicism seem initially like an unbreachable impasse and a painful one at that! Their love will evolve with some wise counsel of friends, family and mentors.
In the midst of this constant partying and pleasurable activities, WWII is looming. Hitler’s aggressive behavior is threatening the world and that includes England. Kick’s family is deeply affected. Kick chooses her own way of donating her time to help in the war effort. Billy signs up for Royal service, realizing how patriotic he really is and wanting to make a difference, with a later painful cost. Kick’s father returns to America, his doubt about Hitler making many consider him a failure. Kick’s brothers, Joe Jr. and Jack, join the Air Force and Navy respectively. Kick’s mentally and emotionally challenged sister, Rose, undergoes a change that is tragic for her and the entire family. Other difficult results of the war loom large, making it almost unbearable but which the Kennedys address with amazing strength.
Almost everyone has heard of the Kennedy family. But Kennedy Debutante… plunges the reader into the everyday, real life of Kick Kennedy and her family in a way that doesn’t hide flaws but acknowledges “service” and “duty” to the world as the sound principles that made a difference to so many – yes, politically, but also personally. Memorable, engaging biography and history reading!!!