Friday Book Whimsy: The Summer I Met Jack

I have heard stories about the Kennedys my entire life. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his elegant wife Jackie were as close as Americans ever got to royalty. There was no one before or after them that created such a sensation. Americans couldn’t get enough. You either loved the Kennedys or hated them. There wasn’t a lot in between.

I was only 9 years old when President Kennedy was assassinated, so I wasn’t old enough to have strong opinions about the Kennedy family. My mother and father did, however, and they were not particular fans. They were both Republicans, but truly I believe they were more concerned with the shenanigans that were part of the family’s legacy.

The Summer I Met Jack, by Michelle Gable, is a novel based on one of the lesser known stories about John F. Kennedy as a young man. There is no doubt the author took a fair amount of liberties with the book — it is fiction, after all — but it certainly didn’t paint a good picture of the family. It did, however, tell an unusual tale.

The book is based on the true story of Alicia Darr, a young woman who purportedly came as a Jewish refugee from Poland (though she always proclaimed she came from Vienna) as part of the Displaced Persons Act just as World War II was beginning. She ended up working as a housekeeper for the Joseph Kennedy family in Hyannis Port, at their acclaimed estate on Hyannis Port, MA.

She was quite beautiful, and caught the eye of young Jack Kennedy. I believe all of the above is true, but the author takes great liberties with the remainder of the story.

Jack and Alicia fall in love and prepare to marry. Old Man Joe puts the kibash on the wedding however, and eventually Alicia moves to Hollywood where she became a minor movie starr. She ended up marrying into the Corning fortune. But oh the ANGST that happens as part of this story!

The author’s portrayal of the Kennedy family is stark and disturbing. If even half of her stories are true, this was an — shall we say — unusual family. Jack Kennedy is portrayed as completely self-absorbed and addicted to sex. The rest of the family is little better.

I didn’t particularly love the author’s writing style, finding it simplistic and almost childish. I have no idea how much truth is in the novel, but if the characters had not been Kennedys, I would have lost interest in the story long before I did.

Still, it was an angle about the Kennedy family that I had not heard, and I am as much of a voyeur as the next guy.

I can’t give this an overwhelming thumbs up, but it was an interesting portrayal of the Kennedys.

Here is a link to the book.