From the coauthor of The New York Times bestsellers Five Presidents and Mrs. Kennedy and Me, a look into the life of First Lady Betty Ford, drawing on her memoirs and interviews with friends and family.
Lisa McCubbin’s insightful portrait is admiring without being fawning, candid without a whiff of tabloid salaciousness ... A journalist and co-author of several bestselling memoirs from Secret Service agents, McCubbin has deftly unearthed stories from those close to Betty Ford: her children, friends and former employees. The result is a vivid picture of a singularly influential woman.
Ms. McCubbin...presents her subject according to a familiar pattern, as a plucky woman overcoming adversity. She variously attributes Betty Ford’s addictions to a 'feminine mystique' situation of being trapped in overwhelming domesticity, a pinched nerve, stress, a bad back, over-scheduling, depression, arthritis, stage fright, and a doctor willing to prescribe whatever was requested ... The author credits the eventual recovery to the support of a loving family, rosily pictured in this book. Yet almost incidentally, she quotes one of the Fords’ sons, Jack, saying that he was embarrassed to bring friends home ... This biography is cast as what we recognize as an 'inspirational survivor story'—personally faultless people courageously triumphing over disease in the family. It has an unusually happy conclusion in the worthy achievement of establishing the Betty Ford Center in California to treat other addicts. But it would have been more interesting—and relevant to the world of today—to have explored more deeply how Betty Ford’s experiences shaped the national discourse.
Though the shadow of those addictions hovers over this book, what we read here is mostly a much lighter tale of a happy family thrust unexpectedly into the glare of the presidency. Only once do we get a sense of how scary Ford’s episodes could be ... On the whole, we don’t see a person losing it in these pages. Here we meet a brave, beautiful and bright woman ... McCubbin irritatingly tells us what Mrs. Ford was wearing on many occasions ... As first lady, she learned that her voice mattered ... She changed the conversation around alcohol, affecting countless lives.