1. What are you currently reading? A Murder Is Announced, by Agatha Christie. Everyone in the small English town of Chipping Cleghorn reads the ads in The Gazette. Amid "help wanted's" and "dachshunds for sale" notices is one that reads, "A murder is announcd and will take place on Friday, October 29, at Little Paddocks at 6:30 PM ..." The woman who lives at "Little Paddocks" didn't place the ad, and that's only the first mysterious thing to happen. What appears at first to be a prank and a game turns into a real murder. Thank goodness Miss Jane Marple just so happens to be there.
In addition to the sleepy British charm is the mystery of this paperback. Published in 1991, it was on the shelf at the Charlestown Branch of the Boston Public Library until June 8, 1995, when it was "withdrawn for discard." How did it make its way to a library book sale in a suburb of Chicago? How many hands held it before me? I simply love the romance of used books.
2. What did you recently finish reading? Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Lawson. There is so much pain on the pages of this book. Joe and Rose Kennedy's third child and first daughter was "different." In the first half of the 20th century, America wasn't kind, understanding or accepting of children with learning disabilities. There was no differentiation between mentally challenged and mentally ill. The stigma the families of these children faced was unfair and bruising.
Rosie faced special challenges. Her eight siblings were exceptional. Legendary. Among her brothers and sisters were a marchioness, an activist, an ambassador, a war hero, two Senators and a President. Yet Rosemary couldn't cut her own meat. While she was physically and mentally challenged, she was not unaware. She knew her siblings loved her and she loved them -- one at a time -- but her competitive and gifted family overwhelmed her. Her frustration at being outflanked by her siblings gave way to rage. These fits made it impossible to keep her at home, yet, despite all their money and power, the Kennedys couldn't find a school to educate and care for her. They refused to institutionalize her, because in those dark days, institutions weren't hospitals, they were warehouses that kept patients alive, but little more. This led her father to make a tragic, irreversible decision about his oldest, prettiest daughter.
I'm glad this book finally told her story. For Rosemary Kennedy inspired her brothers and those brothers championed the landmark legislation that made life better for other families with special children. When one of the country's most famous families admitted they had a mentally challenged sister, it helped remove much of the stigma that undeniably existed in America at that time. Without Rosemary, her sister Eunice would not have been as furiously dedicated to making The Special Olympics the internationally influential organization it is today. Rosemary is a historic figure not because of anything specific she accomplished, but because of how much she was loved. That was powerful and enormously moving. (With Emma Stone slated to play her in the upcoming movie, Rosemary's story will reach even more of us.)
This one will stay with me for a long time.