Kitty Kelley's The Family is essentially a nonfiction Gone With the Wind - in other words, a family saga of grand proportions. Drawing from both named and unnamed sources, Kelley posits a diagram of family dynasty, important because the social dynamics define family members and, more importantly, because this is the first family to place two Presidents in the White House within a decade of one another. Each man, as President, has also gone to war in the Middle East, committing troops to a dangerous and open-ended mission. These facts alone are remarkable and worthy of further study.
The author carefully traces the roots of a family of great wealth and power. Although the recent generations have amassed their wealth from investments tied to Texas oil fields, the family tree is salted with pedigrees and finishing school elitism, only lately become good old boys in scuffed cowboy boots. The most pertinent history begins with George Senior's father, Prescott Bush, followed by George H.W. Bush's career as Director of the CIA, Vice President under Ronald Reagan and his presidency, then George W. Bush's ascendancy to the most important job of our time.
Anecdotally relating George H.W. Bush's strengths, weaknesses, friendships and loyalties, Kelley emphasizes that secrets are of primary concern. The father/son, mother/son and sibling connections are vital to understanding this family. The final chapters are crowned with available facts and rumors about the life of the unexpected jewel in the family crown, George W. Bush, the current president, who is running for reelection.
Not surprisingly, the Bush family was displeased by this book, but for anyone familiar with Kelley's style and choice of subjects, she does have a way of exposing the very human characteristics that are so difficult for people in the public eye to accept. The authorís emphasis isn't so much on individual details or events, but rather an overview, the evolution of a dynasty that has had a profound effect on this country.
Possibly, Bush supporters won't deign to read The Family; that would be unfortunate, because Kelley does a fine job of capturing the essence of her subject matter. Certainly the Bushes are humanized, although there are some areas of concern for this reader, particularly the generational lack of vision in pursuit of power. While Ronald Reagan was acutely aware of his place on the world stage, much of the Bush family motivation appears more personal, fueled by a need to win, to prove themselves, each succeeding generation more driven than the last.
The Bush family corporate ties are also worth mentioning. Loyalty is critical and eternal, always rewarded. In an age when corporations have usurped the power of the middle class, the Bushes are more readily identified with the rarefied boardrooms of corporate power. Not particularly philanthropic, perhaps the Bushes reflect the new America, one more concerned with personal holdings than social issues or the fate of the working class.
In this regard, Kelley achieves her goal; she asks the reader only to examine the disconnect between public perception and private reality. Donít expect any great revelations in The Family; rather, there is a subtle reminder that all men have feet of clay.