Come to the edge : a memoir

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Haag, Christina
Come to the edge : a memoir
 This is a beautifully written memoir of the author’s 5-year romance with John F. Kennedy, Jr. in the late 1980’s. The tale is a little slow going in the beginning, as she details her family history and early years in Catholic school. But I think it is necessary, as we get a glimpse into her background (she is what I’d call “new money”). She and JFK Jr. travelled in the same social circles since their teen years on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. They later became roommates and good friends at Brown University in Providence, R.I. They met up again when both were living in New York. JFK Jr. and she were both seeing other people when he asked her to go out with him.  He was very charming as he tried to romance her.  He buys a motorcycle and drives her home to Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge.  She doesn’t know where to put her hands, so at a stoplight, he turns around and wraps her arms around his chest.(What girl wouldn’t want to trade places with her?). He later tells her he bought the motorcycle because “I was trying to woo you” and that they had the longest courtship ever. They were in an off-Broadway play together, playing the leads. He was a very gifted actor, but of course, it’s a path he cannot take.  When she decides to become an actress, he tells her, “You’re lucky, you have a calling”.

We get a view into their lives of privilege. When Christine first meets his mother, Mrs. Onassis is very reserved and cordial. There were even rules, according to John, as to how and when to approach her. Later the women form a friendship. John calls her “Mummy” and often tries to appease this quiet though formidable woman.  Against Christina’s better judgment, she finds herself taking more risks and going along on his adventures, such as horseback riding, kayaking and skiing.  The point that stuck with me in light of how he died is that he seemed oblivious to the physical danger he put himself in on more than one occasion.  Overall, the tone of the book was restrained.  She does not offer any titillating revelations. She was very respectful of the Kennedy clan.  This is a touching memoir with insights into the man we all thought we knew.

Tiger Hills

From Catherine Given
author: Mandanna, Sarita
Tiger Hills
Though one might guess otherwise, the book Tiger Hills has nothing to do with a championship golf course.  Rather, it’s a classic saga, so richly spiced that reading it is like enjoying an authentic curry.  Here’s Sarita Mandanna’s winning recipe:  sift together the triumph over adversity of The Good Earth,  the fierce matriarchal determination of Gone with the Wind, and fold in a good measure of Out of Africa‘s coffee-infused life on the plantation.  Then bring the mix to a sizzle in the mountains and valleys of southern India for over a century.  Tiger Hills immerses us in actual life-and-death tiger hunts, as well as in ceremonial festivals, exotic botanical adventures, and the ancient culture’s birth and funeral rites. Mandanna’s vibrant characters may start out in India’s dozing tradition-bound country villages.  But as some members of the clan grow restless, they venture out into unknown territory, only to experience the perversities of life in British boarding school, the squalor of India’s jammed, polluted cities and, in the company of other social climbers, they learn how to behave in a more upper crust British way in the society clubs of the Indian outlands.  Through it all, parents keep secrets and hold grudges, siblings’ rivalries fester, lovers refuse to limit themselves to the partners their parents have chosen, and life gets very messy.  Despite soap opera elements, Tiger Hills is worth the investment, because its characters are well-drawn, its dialogue overall rings true, and intriguing settings are exquisitely described.