Thursday, January 27, 2022

Laura Bush, An Intimate Portrait of the First Lady



by Ronald Kessler

Published by Doubleday, New York

The only biography written about her with the full cooperation of the President and the First Lady, this is a candid portrait of the real Laura Welch Bush. This is not a book about politics. It is a book about a woman who never aspired to have the fame and prestige that was bestowed upon her, but accepted the baton with grace and fortitude. If you liked Laura Bush before, you will love her after this book.  Always presented as calm and graceful, it was fun to read about her growing up in Midland, Texas, building campfires at the ranch, or windexing the bookshelves of the White House. The more I read, the more I thought to myself, “Wow, she is just like every other American woman. She could be me.” Or, “I’d love to have her as my friend.”

My heart went out to Mrs. Bush on reading about her tragic car accident when she was seventeen. Laura proved to be true to herself as well as her friends, regardless of their political views or her rise in status. She struggled with all the same trials and tribulations we all did raising teenagers. The biography shows how she grew from a quiet, but opinionated, librarian to become the “Comforter-in-Chief” after 9/11. She shows deep respect for the White House and her role in preserving the sanctity of the institution. Without intruding too much into their personal lives, we get a glimpse into the relationship between Laura and the President: the camaraderie, affection, respect, and love they share. You will laugh out loud at the antics between them and Laura’s pet name for the President. The book claims that, as a young woman, she considered herself a Democrat and didn’t care much for politics. She loathed public speaking. Bush said if he had told her before they were married that she would be doing this, she would have called off the wedding. Besides revealing a lot about her personal friendships, the book shows us Laura Bush’s passion for women’s rights, and how she was instrumental in liberating women from the Taliban in Afghanistan. Kessler describes Laura’s endeavors to make every child in America literate, as well as her passion for working with underprivileged youth. Kessler also shares with us how Mrs. Bush was the first person ever to host a Hanukkah candle lighting in the White House.

Regardless of which side of the aisle you are on, this is good reading for everyone. I will recommend this to my children and my grandchildren. It is a beautiful piece of history. My only criticism of the book is that it is a little verbose regarding all the name dropping, both public figures and personal friends of the Bush’s. Those passionate about their political views could be offended by the derogatory remarks made about Hilary Clinton. Kessler is obviously a huge fan of Laura Bush and offers resounding praise for the First Lady.  What is there to dislike? However, not even Laura Bush can be that perfect. Still, it is an excellent depiction of a very unpretentious, compassionate and loving woman, whom anyone would want as a friend, as well as a portrayal of an exemplary First Lady.

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