McNamara, who was granted access to Eunice’s private papers by her family, persuasively speculates that Eunice’s advocacy for the intellectually disabled sprang in part from her guilt about acceding to this silence ... Her vivid biography is neither a hagiography nor a hatchet job, but a frank and nuanced assessment of a complicated woman ... McNamara’s blunt depiction of Eunice’s flaws by no means diminishes her. Rather, it prompts admiration for her ability to channel anger and frustration into a life dedicated to the causes she believed in ... Famous for her indifference to such social niceties as good grooming and good manners, she would likely have appreciated Eileen McNamara’s forthright portrait.
McNamara reveals with meticulous detail and matter-of-fact prose Shriver's relentless drive, nervous energy and lifelong efforts to affirm the dignity and abilities of those with special needs ... McNamara relies on letters, family records and the observations of Shriver's acquaintances and family to sketch a nuanced portrait of a woman who was brusque yet charismatic, demanding and at times imperious, but also down-to-earth.
McNamara's groundbreakingly researched life of Eunice Kennedy ranks as a standout performance for the entire season of biography. The book succeeds in throwing a clear spotlight on this tremendously important pillar of the powerful Kennedy family ... It's a superb job of biography.