Sweet Caroline is a vicarious ride through the tumultuous life of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. At times, the book tugs gently at the heartstrings of the reader; at other times it smacks one in the face with the brutality the Last Child of Camelot has endured.
The fact that Caroline remembered her famous father (John did not) is both a comfort and a source of pain for her. She often had conversations with her brother about “remember when he…” only to be disappointed that in fact John did not remember.
Some of the revelations in the book are so personal that it is painful to read them. For instance, Caroline’s last conversation with her adored brother ended with her chiding him to be careful on his flight to Martha’s Vineyard and John responding with “… I plan on living to a ripe old age…” In the face of everyone still grasping at the straw of maybe, Caroline instead said “I should feel him but I don’t,” speaking of the intense bond that a lifetime of solidarity in the face of sorrow had bred.
Particularly heart-wrenching is that her first word was “good-bye,” since she would spend the better part of her life having to say goodbye too soon to those she loved. A startling revelation is that Jackie Kennedy Onassis wanted Bobby Kennedy to adopt Caroline and John. The only reason he did not is that Ethel objected. Surprising also are the attempts on her life (ranging from a political terrorist bombing to stalkers) that were miraculously kept from the ever-ravenous press.
When faced with the accounts of how Caroline has been hounded and how badly she would like to be left alone, at times reading the book is downright painful. It is a testament to Andersen’s research and writing ability that readers will wince a bit and stifle a grimace because they feel they are coming too close to the personal space Caroline guards so zealously.
What emerges from the book is a portrait of a seemingly invincible woman who has managed to live all of her life in a goldfish bowl and yet remain enigmatic to the scandal-scrounging public. This is an excellent book for all Kennedy-philes, as well as the average Joe who wants to relate to someone famous. In this moving account of a life lived in the shadow of death, readers come away feeling a kinship with the grief and bravery of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, because what she has faced is universal, though on a much larger scale.
Sweet Caroline earns deserved admiration for Christopher Andersen’s writing skills, as well as Caroline’s ability to survive and smile.