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Publisher's Summary

The dramatic relationship between Ray Kroc, the man who amassed a fortune as chairman of one of America's most controversial and iconic companies - McDonald's - and the passionate woman - his wife, Joan - who then gave that fortune away.

Ray & Joan is a quintessentially American tale of corporate intrigue and private passion: a struggling Mad Men-era salesman with a vision for a fast-food franchise that would become one of the world's most enduring brands and a beautiful woman willing to risk her marriage and her reputation to promote controversial causes that touched her deeply.

Ray Kroc was peddling franchises around the country for a fledgling hamburger stand in the 1950s - McDonald's, it was called - when he entered a St. Paul supper club and encountered a beautiful young piano player who would change his life forever. The attraction between Ray and Joan was instantaneous and instantly problematic. Yet even the fact that both were married to other people couldn't derail their roller coaster of a romance.

To the outside world, Ray and Joan were happy, enormously rich, and giving. But privately Joan was growing troubled over Ray's temper and dark secret, something she was reluctant to publicly reveal. Those close to them compared their relationship to that of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. And yet this volatility paved the way for Joan's transformation into one of the greatest philanthropists of our time. A force in the peace movement, she produced activist films, books, and music and ultimately gave away billions of dollars, including landmark gifts to the Salvation Army and NPR.

Together, the two stories form a compelling portrait of the 20th century: a story of big business, big love, and big giving.

©2016 Lisa Napoli (P)2016 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Napoli's narrative skills are outstanding. She depicts Ray and Joan in vivid detail and with deep sympathy, something that's especially difficult given how neither Kroc was an especially appealing person.” (Chicago Tribune)

“Journalist Lisa Napoli’s Ray & Joan is remarkable…a playful, even waggish work of biography.” (Christian Science Monitor)

“Napoli weaves together the Krocs’s personal and business dramas with considerable intelligence…[her] portrait of Joan in her final two decades, impulsively writing multimillion-dollar checks and dispatching her private jet 'like a pickup truck' to run personal errands for friends, is charming and engaging.” (Boston Globe)

What listeners say about Ray & Joan

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For when you've just watched The Founder

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

I would recommend this audio book to any current entrepreneur, budding entrepreneur, McDonald's worker or anyone that wonders about how it all got started.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Ray & Joan?

After watching the movie where it seems like Ray and Joan got married straight after they met, I was interested to find it was actually 12 years later and Ray married someone else between Ethel and Joan.

What does Lisa Napoli bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

She writes and narrates in a lively way. the story jumps back and forward quite a bit, but after 4 or 5 chapters you've now been introduced to all the characters and then it's just finding out what happens to them.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Not really.

Any additional comments?

I think I've met a lot of sales people like Ray Kroc, but then most of them don't actually go on to success, they usually go the other way.

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  • Kathleen S.
  • 30-11-2016

I enjoyed learning about McDonald's.

The story was well told. There is so many interesting people and events that came together to make this empire. I will never look at the Golden Arches the second again.

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  • Shelly Dee
  • 06-07-2017

Great as author; as narrator not so much

I saw this author on Book TV which prompted me to get this book. Napoli was great on the TV interview, but as a reader it's a chore to listen to her. I am hanging in because it IS an interesting story, but her manner of speaking is like chalk on a blackboard (not sure of digital equivalent). It sounds to me like a cross between somebody reading to elementary school children (I can picture them sitting in a semi-circle) and the local gossip breathlessly whispering her latest news.

I'm on chapter 6 now and hope I will be able to finish -- it may be a 5-star book, but for now it's a 4.



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  • Moonbeam
  • 09-01-2017

Interesting and well read, but felt abrupt and focused more on the starting of McDonalds

This was a really great story, but felt like it was more the story of McDonalds than Ray and Joan. It really focuses on that for about the first half of the book, and then quickly covers some of the couples story and abruptly ends. Wasn't what I expected, but it was interesting and kept me listening until the end. Worth a listen.

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  • Melisa Gillis
  • 25-08-2017

Fascinating story, however a dissed jointed writing of the story and fax.

I enjoyed learning about both Ray and Joan, especially Jones philanthropy. The author used a style that seemed very dissed jointed introducing many different facts without a seeming smooth thread.

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  • Katherine S. Weaver
  • 07-02-2017

Great book!

This book is a fascinating history of McDonalds and the people who
made it happen. Ray and Joan, like their restaurant chain, were larger than life. It's inspiring and fun to read about their enormous generosity and passionate living. Ms. Napoli weaves an engrossing tale. She is a great writer.

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  • Jim
  • 09-09-2021

It's Worth It For the Story of MacDonald's

Ms. Napoli’s book works when she either details Ray Kroc’s life or Ray and Joan interacting together. Read it to find out how MacDonald's Inc. evolved--Ms. Napoli does a good job explaining that. After Ray dies the books turns, well, boring. Eventually it turns into one of those “it’s about us girls” books in which it’s assumed men cannot comprehend the experience of being an independent female. The author inherits a problem in that neither Ray nor Joan are particularly likable. Read the first three-fourths and don’t feel guilty if you skip the last fourth and go on to something else.

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  • Jim Fulton
  • 17-11-2020

Absolutely fantastic book

I have really enjoyed this book since I grew up in the late 50s and early 60s when McDonald’s were starting in my various hometowns gradebook

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  • Kalia Bonner
  • 24-07-2018

interesting

I found it interesting to learn about the beginning of Rays success and how it transformed over the years. Same for Joan, to hear how blessed she was to acquire her money.

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