Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Missing Kennedy: A Review

With depth and care, Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff’s memoir, The Missing Kennedy: RosemaryKennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women (Bancroft Press 2016), respectfully discusses the presence of both mental illness and intellectual disabilities in our nation. Across the backdrop of 20th century America, Koehler-Pentacoff weaves together the story of her family and her connection to Rosemary Kennedy, the sister of President Kennedy. The author’s beautiful prose and extensive research create a lovely work of Creative Nonfiction which was quite enlightening.

~Many thanks to ImMedia for providing me 
a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions are my own.~

Prior to reading this book, I did not know much about Rosemary Kennedy. So, I was intrigued to read about her childhood, the controversial lobotomy procedure she endured, and her final days in Wisconsin as she was cared for by Sister Paulus, the author’s aunt. Several black-and-white photographs adorn the book’s pages, and I enjoyed seeing the different people that I was reading about. The author provided personal anecdotes from times when she visited Rosemary, which I thought really added to the richness of the story.

I also really liked how the author, by weaving together stories from her family, showed that both mental illness and intellectual disabilities occur in many places, to many people, regardless of whether they are famous or “ordinary.” I appreciated how the author spent time discussing the decision that Joe Kennedy, the father of Rosemary, made when he agreed to have her undergo a lobotomy. Koehler-Pentacoff presents an overview of the misconceptions surrounding mental disorders in the early 1900s, as well as some of the positive perceptions held towards lobotomies. I found all of this very interesting, because it helped me see a little more clearly what possibly may have motivated Joe Kennedy in pursuing this treatment for his daughter.

While this book was interesting, there were a few parts which I found hard to follow, particularly as the author outlined the various scenes of her different family members, which she ultimately tied together. It was tricky, at times, to keep all of the author’s relatives straight in my mind, but the family trees provided in the back of the book were a helpful reference. There were a few parts of the book which seemed a little irrelevant to the larger story (like the author’s views on various aspects of Catholicism), but I still found them somewhat interesting to read about.

Even though this book moved a bit slow at times, I still enjoyed how it introduced me to Rosemary Kennedy and presented a discussion on the prevalence of mental illness and intellectual disabilities in our country. I’d give this book a 3 out of 5 stars, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about Rosemary Kennedy or is interested in a Creative Nonfiction work that discusses mental illness! 

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