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Publisher's Summary

They were the most prominent American family of the 20th century. The daughter they secreted away made all the difference.

Joe and Rose Kennedy's strikingly beautiful daughter, Rosemary, attended exclusive schools, was presented as a debutante to the queen of England, and traveled the world with her high-spirited sisters. And yet Rosemary was intellectually disabled - a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family.

Major new sources - Rose Kennedy's diaries and correspondence, school and doctors' letters, and exclusive family interviews - bring Rosemary to life as a girl adored but left far behind by her competitive siblings. Kate Larson reveals both the sensitive care Rose and Joe gave to Rosemary and then, as the family's standing reached an apex, the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly intractable in her early 20s. Finally, Larson illuminates Joe's decision to have Rosemary lobotomized at age 23 and the family's complicity in keeping the secret.

Rosemary delivers a profoundly moving coda: JFK visited Rosemary for the first time while campaigning in the Midwest; she had been living isolated in a Wisconsin institution for nearly 20 years. Only then did the siblings understand what had happened to Rosemary and bring her home for loving family visits. It was a reckoning that inspired them to direct attention to the plight of the disabled, transforming the lives of millions.

©2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc. (P)2015 Blackstone Audiobooks

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  • Gotta Tellya
  • 30-05-2016

Illuminating and moving.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Fascinating true story, good writing, excellent narration. Yes!

What was one of the most memorable moments of Rosemary?

Too numerous to describe here. Perhaps the most notable was Rosemary's birth. Clearly neglect if not outright malpractice caused brain damage in the poor baby and thus altered many lives in the process. The second most memorable moment was when Rosemary's father opted to have his daughter lobotomized years later, in an effort to make her placid and controllable, without consulting his wife--tragic.

Which scene was your favorite?

The prom where Rosemary was accompanied by her soon to be famous brother--a magical and loving moment.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes. I wanted to keep listening, not for the sake of suspense but because I had become a witness to a deliberately obscured yet very significant side of Kennedy family history, and I wanted to stay on that ride until its completion.

Any additional comments?

First, I appreciated hearing Rosemary's story, about which I had known very little. Second, I realized this is just as much Rose Kennedy's story. I discovered that Rose suffered all her life from the controlling men in her life and the decisions they made without considering her needs and desires. Decades ago, I thought Rose was a stiff, old-school Catholic matron, but now I know why she seemed to be so overly devout and full of denial. As for Joe Kennedy, he came across as a self-centered dictator, as he did in every telling of Kennedy family history. Nevertheless, between Rosemary's condition and the loss of their three sons, Rose and Joe suffered more than most, and deserve sympathy for that. The main blessing from Rosemary's life is that her condition, and lack of proper treatment and protection of her rights, led her siblings to champion the cause of the developmentally delayed. The result is our current system of care, which, while still a work in progress, is hugely better than the nothing that existed for Rosemary herself.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Kristieloo
  • 11-11-2015

Excellent read/listen

I listen to audible books all the time and usually when the book finishes I think, "I'll have to listen again for I'm sure I missed something". Not this time! Wonderful narration and great story. I was sad, happy, angry and heartbroken all in one story. Now I sit back and reflect how the world has changed and how it has not.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathy
  • 04-02-2018

This Sad Story Bruised My Heart

I don't know what I expected, as I knew about the ultimate lobotomy before I began listening. I knew it was not going to be a joyful, fun listen, but I never suspected I would have experienced such sadness, anger and disgust from a biography of one of the Kennedy clan. It was an important book but oh-so-sad and so difficult to comprehend all that was done to destroy a perfectly healthy baby and a delightful young woman of not quite normal intelligence and capabilities.

Despite your political and religious affiliations, I don't know how you could come away from this story without cursing Joe and Rose Kennedy under your breath as two of the most selfish and loathe-some people you have ever heard about.

Roses fixation on her children's weight, her denial of Rosemary's disability, her ignoring adult Rosemary for decades . . . Joe's womanizing, his selfishness when it came to his career, his role in lobotomizing his daughter to keep her docile, his keeping the reality of his secret decision and its terrible outcome from his family for so long . . . .

Yes, ultimately some good came from the the outrageous treatment of the beautiful and innocent girl, thanks to Eunice's instigation. She seemed to be one of the really genuine and caring people this family produced, and I did appreciated learning about her role in improving the lot of disabled persons world-wide.

Very good narration that took just a bit of time to get comfortable with.

Read at your own risk!

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Carmen Gibson
  • 14-04-2017

Heartbreaking, Motivating

I expected to hear about a child that the Kennedys rejected due to her not meeting their expectations. But the author went much deeper by giving a background of the family history. It is disturbing to learn the depths of Joe and Rose Kennedys shallowness and vanity. Rosemary is an inspiration that teaches us that sometimes it is the least of us that make the greatest difference. Newfound respect for Eunice and the Shriver family.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Brian
  • 24-10-2015

HOW VERY SAD....!!!

This was absolutely heartbreaking. Joseph Kennedy, Sr. should be ashamed of himself what he did to a beautiful daughter out of greed, politics, and VANITY. Jean Kennedy is the last surviving child of Joe and Rose Kennedy. This is a family full of secrets. What a waste, what a miserable existence this family has most often times brought upon themselves. This book only strengthened my beliefs about how horrible a person Joseph Kennedy, Sr. was. This legacy follows them all to this day. How very sad -- How very shameful.

Good book well worth a listen. A little bit of history explains a lot.

25 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • Tracey
  • 06-11-2015

Very interesting

A very insightful look into the lives of the Kennedys. I highly recommend this audio book.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • tooonce72
  • 15-07-2016

Like Watching A Train Crash

The woman who stated this work was too chronological couldn't have read this book. The sad part about her telling such a fable - it kept this in my 'to be read' stack much longer than it should have been.

Fascinating book - hands down.

This book will have you thinking for weeks and years to come about the depths that one will go to live up to the expectations of others. If you are not thinking of that you will be wondering that had these two parents taken a different approach to their family secret - they might have given the world something even greater than a President. I am currently contemplating if Joseph Kennedy Sr pushed karma into biting his entire family by his actions. You will be too.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Gwendol
  • 07-10-2015

Excellence

Excellence! Highly recommend. Well narrated explanation of an obviously well documented and honest look back in time at a tragic situation.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • A. Campbell
  • 01-12-2016

Riveting

I'm not a person with any special interest in the Kennedy family but this was fascinating. As a teacher, I have even more respect for those teaching special education. I had so many emotions throughout this story-sadness, horror, anger, and pride.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • E F
  • 11-03-2016

another tragic Kennedy story

Rosemary is a fairly short listen, and kept my attention for the entire length of the book. Larson pieces together Rosemary's life from letters, journals, and other historical documents to show us a well rounded portrait of the eldest Kennedy daughter.

What a tragic story it is. As she grew up, the Kennedys were increasingly in the public eye and their patriarch fought to control this daughter in particular for fear of scandal. The motivations behind her catastrophic lobotomy can really only be speculated upon, but the aftermath is simply awful. While Rosemary's life could have played a part in some of the 20th century reformation in laws for disabled Americans, it is still a shockingly sad story.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Ms. C_O'S
  • 16-08-2016

A great insight on the Kennedy family.

Loved it and so very interesting on how her father and family truly adored Rosemary.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful