Top positive review
And That Was the Way it Was...
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on February 16, 2012
(Kindle edition) I read Mimi Alford's book after listening to her being interviewed on NBC last week. Mrs Alford has become a very candid woman, who decided after fifty years to share the story of her affair with President John F Kennedy and what happened next, and how keeping her secret caused unforeseen complications in her personal life. I am only a few years younger than the author, and much of what she relates about the times and the prevailing attitude towards women is the way I remember it. And also having briefly met all three of the Kennedy brothers at the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles as a high school newspaper reporter, I can vouch for the charm that they had for an impressionable young girl.
As everyone who has read the book, or saw the interview, knows Mimi Alford was a teenager when she was offered a job as a summer intern in the White House Press Office. Less than a week after she started her dream job, the author gave her virginity to the president in his wife's bedroom. That was the beginning of a sexual relationship that lasted until shortly before his death, but the emotional impact of the relationship lingered for decades and was, the author believes, the cause of her increasing estrangement from her husband that ended their marriage 26 years later.
The author never engages in specific, intimate details of the sexual aspect of their affair, other than to say it was "highly charged" and exciting. What she does relate has more to do with the logistics of their affair -- how David Powers arranged for her to be picked up at college by car for trips to the White House, how she travelled on Air Force One (to the increasing resentment of the regular staff), and how the president even managed to call her at her dorm on a public phone without being detected. She also relates that they spent much time in the East Wing of the White House in JFK's bedroom, and she writes about how she sat and cried with the president after the death of his infant son. Mrs Alford never felt guilty about having an affair with a married man, and never met Mrs Kennedy, who spent much of her time away from the White House. Like the president, the author compartmentalized that part of her life, keeping it apart from everything else. Although she continued to have sex with the president after she became engaged to a young college man, the president began to disengage from the relationship. After his death in Dallas, Mimi confessed her relationship to her future husband, who ordered her to never speak of it again, not even to him. It festered within the author for decades before her identity finally became know due to some oral histories recorded by former White House staffers. The author finally decided to "come out" to her daughters and other close friends, and ultimately to write her memoir.
Mimi Alford was rather typical of her time and social class -- the 1950's and 1960's in the world of the affluent Northeast-Mid-Atlantic region. Marriage was the highest goal, women were "girls" even when girlhood was only a dim memory, men were in charge, and the press stayed out of the private life of the president, even when suspecting the presence of mistresses and casual encounters. The author seems to have good insight into the nature of her realationship with the president and to history. She never felt the president was in love with her, and even related some incidents that showed a truly dark side of him and the relationship. She states that she was not even a "footnote to a footnote" in the history of the Kennedy administration. To me the one false note, which indicates to me a remarkable lack of understanding of either her husband or of men in general,is when she writes that she had hoped someday that she and her husband could have treated the affair with JFK as an amusing incident in her early life and laugh about it. Otherwise, we are treated to the increasing estrangement from everything except her children that she often felt in the last 13 years of her marriage (her divorced husband died in the mid-1990's). Her insights into the damaging nature of secrets is worthwhile reading. The book is well written -- the author has a nice literary style -- and I feel that she has been totally candid with the readers and the American public.
About the Kindle edition: I was disappointed that the cover was not included with the Kindle download. The title page contained the only photograph in the entire book -- a picture of the author at the time of her affair with the president. During her TV interview there were personal photographs shown, and I assumed they were also in the book. They were not.