Review Time: Rosemary – The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

“It’s really that simple: love gave me confidence and adversity gave me purpose.”

I’ve had this book about Rosemary Kennedy on my “to read” list for a number of months, and finally got around to diving into it this week. The book tells the story of Rosemary Kennedy, the eldest Kennedy daughter who was kept out of the spotlight by her parents, Joe and Rose Kennedy. Due to what the author, Kate Clifford Larson, attributes to an issue during her birth, Rosemary had developmental and learning disabilities that grew worse as she matured.

You follow Rosemary through her infant to teenage years, feeling sympathy for her as she struggles to keep up with the rest of her exceptional family. Then, at only 23, Rosemary was forced into having one of the nation’s first prefrontal lobotomies, debilitating her for the rest of her life.

The majority of the book focuses on the pre-surgery Rosemary who loved swimming and being around children, opening your heart to the well-meaning girl. Then, as with the real-life tragedy, poor Rosemary goes from functional (if a bit mentally slow) adult to a woman needed constant care in the blink of an eye. The paragraphs in which Larson describes the lobotomy itself are especially heartbreaking because you can see the two seconds it takes to ruin someone’s life forever.

The book is a bit vague at times, but out of necessity, since a vast portion of the notes and records of Rosemary’s life and care are not available to the public. It threw me off a little bit that of the 302 (iPad) pages, 72 of them are reserved for citation notes and indexes, leaving the book significantly shorter than I was anticipating. All in all, though, Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy is a fascinating look at the life of a girl who didn’t quite fit the mold that her parents wanted her to fit into and the tragedy that resulted.


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