1. What are you currently reading?
A Common Struggle by Patrick J. Kennedy. The Kennedy family maintains a hold on our national imagination in part, I believe, because they are just that -- a family. They are us, only more so. Our strengths and weaknesses are theirs, only theirs are magnified. All of this is on display in Patrick Kennedy's very brave book.
The youngest child of Ted and Joan Kennedy, Patrick had two parents with mental health and addiction issues. Like many families, the Kennedys found these issues embarrassing and painful and would have preferred not to shine a spotlight on them. But the spotlight was always there. In a particularly chilling passage, near the beginning of the book, Patrick describes his early sessions with a shrink. He was a teenager, confused by his parents' divorce, yet afraid to discuss the more painful aspects with his psychiatrist because it felt too private and too embarrassing. Then he walked into a bookstore, browsed the "Kennedy section" and saw that just about anyone had access to tales about his mother's drinking and his father's infidelities.
Mental illness and addiction are "a common struggle" because we all know someone who suffers from depression, addiction, or anxiety. Bi-polar Patrick shares his story, and offers up solutions, to encourage dialog on this important topic. While well written, it's not an easy read because there's real pain on every page. I applaud him for this book.
2. What did you recently finish reading?
The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. Part of the fun of this book -- and it is paranoid, scary, wacky fun -- is in stumbling upon similarities between William Jefferson Clinton and fictional POTUS Jonathon Lincoln Duncan. Both grew up poor. Both went to law school and married the smartest girl in class. Both had one, perfect daughter. Both became Southern governors and then ascended to the Presidency. Both felt they unjustly faced impeachment. I smiled a lot as I read those passages.
As an author, Bill Clinton improves this book. He has always been good at taking the complex and making it relatable. (Or, as Barack Obama said in 2012, he should be "Secretary of Explaining Stuff.") Cyber terrorism and hacking are brought to life here in a way that will give you chills. You get what's at stake here. And, after reading this book, you'll be pissed by how sanguine the current (real life) Administration seems in the face of Russian meddling.
I'm sure the plotting was all Patterson, and it was tight. The suspense built to a satisfying reveal that made complete sense. However, there were passages that were unnecessarily lurid and breathless, and they reminded me why I quit reading Patterson/Alex Cross back in the 1990s.