Book Review: Secret Lives of the First Ladies By Cormac O’Brien

 

Reading this book was certainly an entertaining experience.

The following are some tantalizing tidbits I read in the book:

  • Julia Tyler, President Tyler’s second wife, never went anywhere without her twelve “ladies-in-waiting.” The press derided them as “the Vestal Virgins.”
  • Margaret Taylor, wife of Zachary Taylor, actually prayed every night that her husband would not get elected President. She felt his health was not up to the job and she was proven right—he died after barely a year in office.
  • Eliza Johnson, wife of President Andrew Johnson, was so frugal that she even bought cows to graze on the White House lawn in order to provide fresh milk.
  • Lucy Hayes and her husband Rutherford Hayes were not exactly the fun-loving party types. They banned liquor in the White House, forbid card-playing, dancing, and even playing pool. Lucy filled the White House billiard room with plants.
  • Unlike most first ladies, Eleanor Roosevelt had no interest in preparing elaborate meals for guests. In fact, when the king and queen of England came to visit Hyde Park, Eleanor served them hot dogs.

Reading through the book, I learned some shocking facts about Presidents:

  • President James Garfield was an unrepentant womanizer. He even had the gall to introduce his wife Lucretia to some of his mistresses. Talk about a miserable marriage.
  • As a husband, Lyndon Johnson was a dictator. For this I will quote the book: “Lady Bird was directed to shine his shoes, bring him breakfast in bed, keep his cigarette lighter filled, and more. . .He also insisted that she learn about his job, assigning her names, addresses, and other details to memorize. And as if all that weren’t challenging enough, she had to deal with the rumors about her husband’s extramarital affairs.” Poor Lady Bird!

There is much more to read in Secret Lives of the First Ladies. Every chapter gives the reader a fascinating glimpse of each first lady, giving a sense of their personalities and characters.

My one criticism: Author O’Brien is obviously not a Trump fan. His description of First Lady Melania was the only one that was downright unflattering. I didn’t appreciate the mud-slinging and lack of civility of today’s partisan politics in her description.

My two favorite lines:

Mamie Eisenhower once said, “Every woman over fifty should stay in bed until noon.”

When the magazine Parade printed a reader’s question about how much Barbara Bush weighed, it responded in an article that she was between 135 and 145 pounds. After hearing about the magazine’s answer, Barbara, who tended to be on the heavy side and had a good sense of humor, joked in a speech immediately after the article was published, “Just for starters, I was born weighing 135 pounds.”

Tempted to read yet?

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Thai Cave Rescue: Finally, News to Inspire

Photographer: Adam Sherez

I have a voracious appetite for keeping up with the news, but after days of reading or watching TV following Meghan Markle breaking royal protocol by crossing her legs at public events and the continual mud-slinging of the country’s politicians, it was refreshing to read about the dramatic rescue of the 12 boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach who were trapped in a cave for over two weeks in Thailand.

Like most people, I read the articles and watched the news with growing trepidation about their chances of rescue after being trapped while under threat from heavy rains flooding the cave and their dependence on oxygen tanks. The soccer team was exploring a cave after soccer practice, and since it was rainy season in Thailand, a downpour flooded the tunnels and they became trapped. Oxygen tanks and food and water were brought down while rescue crews worked tirelessly to keep them alive while planning their rescue.

A few days ago a former Thai navy diver died while attempting to bring oxygen supplies down to the cave. Unfortunately, his own oxygen supply ran out. At that point their fate looked bleak.

But on Tuesday, while reading about which NBA players were likely going to stay on their teams and which may be traded and Kim Kardashian’s little daughter North West making her fashion debut, I was happy and relieved to find out that all thirteen young men were rescued. And even more heartwarming, it was an international effort—divers and other help came from Britain, the US, Australia, and Israel along with the Thai Navy SEALS.

While I don’t wish for anyone to be in danger and in need of rescue, it was certainly a story of substance and encouragement. Apparently, others thought so as well. A Hollywood movie producer and a major publisher have expressed interest in bringing their story to the public.

Clearly, this was a news item that touched our spirits and gave us the inspiration we all crave.

RIP Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy seal, who passed away in his valiant attempt to rescue the boys.

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True Mercy 2017 Winner in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards!

Great news!

My novel True Mercy was a Red Ribbon Finalist in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards. The books were marked according to EDITING, THEME, STYLE, AND COVER.

The following are some of the judges’ comments:

‘A good thriller this. The author works well with her central characters (the secondary characters get lost a little) and also portraying the terrible life the hero, Marina, is facing. I enjoyed it although, just to warn, elements of it can be hard to read; justifiably so.’ Female reader, aged 52

‘The autistic element is particularly interesting for me, being a teacher. Congrats to the author.’ Female reader, aged 48

‘Plenty of suspense and plenty of twists. Loved it! Note: this is a not a cheery, beach read and has upsetting scenes.’ Female reader, aged 59

‘Powerful stuff. I would think anybody with an interest in autism and/or human trafficking would find this of interest.’ Male reader, aged 62

To Sum It Up:
‘Not only a powerful thriller, it is also a captivating study of modern slavery. A Red Ribbon winner and highly recommended.’ The Wishing Shelf Book Awards

 

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Seagram’s Heiress Clare Bronfman Gave Away Fortune to Finance Keith Raniere’s Sex Cult NXIVM

 

Disturbing allegations are swirling around Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram fortune. The granddaughter of Samuel Bronfman, who founded the world-famous Canadian liquor company, has allegedly used her family trust fund money to finance a sex trafficking group and may now end up going to jail.

Bronfman, 39, invested $150 million dollars into NXIVM. Back in April, I wrote a blog about the arrest of Keith Raniere, the founder of NXIVM, on charges of running a sex cult disguised as a self-help program. Smallville actress Allison Mack has also been arrested for her role in the sex cult. Mack was in charge of slaves and would prepare them to sleep with Raniere. She would also force them to hand over incriminating naked photos of themselves to be used as collateral in case they decided to leave the cult. These women would work for free day and night and were basically starved by only being permitted to consume less than 1,000 calories per day. Most gruesome of all, the slaves had to submit to branding near their pelvis area with Keith Raniere’s initials.

Former NXIVM publicist Frank Parlato claims that Bronfman is now in charge of the “slaves” who are spread out between New York and Toronto. What’s more, Parlato believes she is preparing to discredit Raniere’s accusers by intimidating them so they won’t testify.

Clare Bronfman continues to defend Raniere. On her website she wrote, “I find no fault in a group of women (or men for that matter) freely taking a vow of loyalty and friendship with one another to feel safe while pushing back against the fears that have stifled their personal and professional growth.”

Many questions come to mind: 1.) What was Bronfman’s motivation for spending her entire fortune helping this crazed man? 2.) How did Raniere and Mack manipulate women into joining this sex cult and submit to these inhumane conditions? 3.) Why is human trafficking on the rise in the United States and all over the world? 4.) How can we fight this evil?

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The Suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to admit I don’t understand. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, two people who have reached the pinnacle of their professions, rising above the crushing competition of people clawing to get ahead, having all the money they need and more, commit suicide.

Most people struggle to stand out in their careers, come up with the money to pay their bills and hopefully put aside enough for enjoyment while they keep dreaming of a better life. And they don’t commit suicide.

In my novel True Mercy, I wrote of young women going through the nightmare of being tricked into sex slavery. Every moment is a horror. Another subject in my novel is the stresses and challenges of taking care of a loved one with autism, where the individual’s moods and behaviors are unpredictable. Caregivers often get frazzled and are in desperate need of respite. To my knowledge, neither Kate Spade nor Anthony Bourdain experienced challenges such as these.

Spade rose to be a world-renown fashion icon famous for her prized signature handbags. Bourdain was an author and chef who traveled the world telling stories and sampling each culture’s cuisine on his award-winning television show. Needless to say, they could live wherever they wanted, command respect for their talents and accomplishments, and live the lives most of us only fantasize about.

Each one had a young child. Part of being a parent is living to protect and take care of your children. No matter how bad things get the instinct of a parent is to be there for their child. After all, if a parent is not watching over them, who will?

I remain dumbfounded by these suicides. They had everything to live for, what the vast majority of us strive for every day. They rose above the everyday concerns most of us have. I suppose the only way to understand what was wrong would be to find out what was going on in their heads. But it’s too late for that. So we are left scratching our own heads.

The only conclusion I can come up with comes from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible:

“that God sometimes grants a man riches, property, and wealth, so that he does not want for anything his appetite may crave, but God does not permit him to enjoy it; instead, a stranger will enjoy it. That is futility and a grievous ill.”

Ecclesiastes 6:2

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