Book Review: Dear Mrs. Kennedy

People of my generation ask each other this question: “Where were you when JFK was killed?” That’s because, for us, it was a pivotal moment. After that day many things changed in both our country and in how we saw the world.

For those of us born during or right after World War II, our future in the early sixties seemed positive and hopeful. Yes, there were serious problems in the country, especially in the areas of civil rights and gender rights, but we were beginning to deal with them. We had a young, vibrant president and we were heading toward a future filled with positive changes.

On November 22, 1963 all that changed. When John Kennedy was assassinated we were horrified and we all just stopped. We stood still – not for a moment or a day, but for over a week. I walked home that day in an eerily silent city. Stores and businesses were closed. Government offices and schools all sent people home. Nearly everything closed down that day and many stayed closed until after the Thanksgiving holiday a week later.

People react differently to catastrophic events but, in this case, millions of people felt the need to write it all down. People began to think about the president’s family. How were they handling this loss? From all over the country and around the world people sent letters and telegrams to the White House and to the new widow, Jacqueine Kennedy.

Over one million pieces of correspondence was received from people in all walks of life and all ages. The letters were heart-felt and filled with sympathy. After many of them were read, they were packed into boxes. Mrs. Kennedy promised the letters would be preserved in a future Kennedy presidential library.

And that’s where they have stayed until recently. Now Jay Mulvaney and Paul DeAngelis have complied many of them into this stunning compilation.  Dear Mrs. Kennedy is an example of how people around the world felt on that terrible day in 1963.

A young schoolboy wrote:  I am in the fourth grade. I was in art when the news came. One girl started crying. I couldn’t bring myself to my senses enough to comfort her, as I was immediately heartsick. I am still heartsick. I am only 9, but I know how great he was.

Supreme Court Justice W. O. Douglas wrote: My heart is so heavy that words fail me. A sadness has come over the earth that it never knew.

Leaders from all over the world sent messages of condolence. Here’s one from Charles De Gaulle, President of France: The immense grief that has just hit you touches me and my wife in the deepest reaches of our hearts. Be assured that we are beside you in thought and prayer.

This book is both sad and inspirational. It’s a reminder of how we all felt at the end of 1963. More importantly, it reminds us how much we have in common. I highly recommend this book to those of us who lived through this time period and to younger folks as well. Good history.

Where were you when JFK was killed?

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be the first stop on the tour for Dear Mrs. Kennedy. For more information on the tour, go here: TLC Book Tours. For the author’s website, visit here: Paul De Angelis Website.

Copies of Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares Its Grief, Letters November 1963can be purchased at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)

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16 Responses to Book Review: Dear Mrs. Kennedy

  1. Beth F says:

    Wow. Like you said, for those of us who remember this will be an incredibly powerful book. The first extract was a bit spooky:

    I was in the back of my fourth-grade classroom standing in front of an easel painting in watercolors when the classroom phone rang. Our teacher was crying when she told us the news.

  2. I’m Paul De Angelis and I co-authored DEAR MRS. KENNEDY with Jay Mulvaney. Thanks for being the first blog to highlight on the TLC Blog Tour; in recent days I’ve been doing book readings that include readings by some of the letter writers whose childhood letters are in the book; it’s been very moving. Two of them, Debbie Fletcher Johnson and Joe Mackay, are going to meet me at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver this Thursday for another reading. If any of you reading this live in that part of the woods, it would be great to see you.

  3. bermudaonion says:

    This sounds like a very moving book. I had just turned 5 when Kennedy was killed and don’t remember where I was at the time, but I do remember watching the train that carried his body and his funeral.

  4. Lisamm says:

    Margot, thank you for being the first stop on the tour. I read the book as well and was stunned at how emotional I felt reading it. Excellent review; thanks again.

  5. kaye says:

    It was a day that changed the world. I think this would be an emotional read.

  6. Rural View says:

    I was working in a steno pool at an insurance company’s headquarters in Springfield, IL. We were sent home of course and I spent the next few days glued to my TV set with friends. We all thought about how the country reacted to Lincoln’s death and journey home to Springfield.

  7. Tami says:

    When the “Where were you when…” question comes up, I usually joke that I had just gone down for my afternoon nap. I was only two in the fall of 1963, so I don’t have any direct memories of that day, but I have always been fascinated by Jackie Kennedy. This looks like a tremendously touching book – can’t wait to find a copy. Thanks for the review.

  8. Lovely review. I am also doing this one for the tour.

  9. Mystica says:

    This must be a very emotional book to read.

  10. Staci says:

    Sounds like a very interesting read and one that brings history to life with those personal letters!!

  11. Oh Margot — this post brought back memories — as you say, all of us of a certain age remember exactly where we were. I could not believe at the time that the world would actually just … go on. (I’ve had a lot more experience since then and I know it always does.) I will buy this book!

  12. stacybuckeye says:

    Although this was before my time I’ve always enjoyed reading about the Kennedy’s. Thanks for the recommendation.

  13. Nan says:

    Margot, I hope this book will help younger people to understand what a national grief this was. There has been so much violence since that they may not realize what a shock it was. I was in the high school gym (15 years old), and I can see the loudspeaker in my mind’s eye that told us the horrible news. I saw my father cry twice; when his father died and when JFK died.

  14. Bumbles says:

    We visited the JFK Library & Museum last fall and it was very moving. He had so much on his plate – it would have been interesting to see how far he could have carried the nation into a better direction. The museum tells the story of his family as well as his own legacy – including Jackie’s life. This book I’m sure would make a great companion to any visit there.

  15. Audrey says:

    Thank you for sharing this amazing book. I cannot wait to get a hold of it. Your review is wonderful! I especially would like my mom to read this as she was in high school when she heard the news – a day she will never forget. I just finished another great book about the Kennedy administration called, The Kennedy Detail, by Gerald Blaine. Blaine was one of JFK’s secret service agents and was a witness that terrible day in history. What interested me the most were the lives of these men who devoted their entire beings to protecting the presidential family. They went through a lot of stress because of the secrecy they kept. The impact the assassination on them was pretty severe as they had to continue in their jobs, with no time to grieve. I can’t imagine going through something like that.

  16. TheBookGirl says:

    Thank you for this lovely review. I was 5 when JFK was killed, and I remember distinctly watching much of the t.v. coverage on our little black and white set as my mother and next door neighbor were sobbing…

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