Promise Me, Dad is Joe Biden’s poignant, instructive and deeply affecting account of a family’s struggle against a vicious brain cancer, played out against the demands of his job as vice president and the temptations of another run for the presidency. It is also a touching account of the cruel realities of cancer, especially cancer that strikes a child.
What’s most remarkable about Biden’s Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose is that he’s decided to give us full visibility into the agony and strangeness of that period, showing just what it was like to care for his son — and then mourn him — while simultaneously fulfilling his duties as vice president. The book is a backstage drama, honest, raw and rich in detail. People who have lost someone will genuinely take comfort from what he has to say. But this memoir is also a political book, one in which Biden touts his accomplishments and makes frequent forays into the wetlands of foreign and domestic policy. His position-paper entr’actes can be awkward and artless, much like the author himself. But after a time, you come to understand why he’s mixing in pages of his curriculum vitae with pages about grief: To Biden, the two are intertwined. It’s almost as if he suffers from a kind of political synesthesia ... It’s to Biden’s credit that you don’t really question these anecdotes. He may be a bit excitable, a bit of a windbag. But anyone who’s ever covered Congress (I did, for a while) can discern on the page what was discernible in real life: the bartender aspect of Biden’s character, the natural convener who reads customers well enough to put them at ease. He’s always understood that the political is personal.
Biden recounts in vivid, heart-wrenching detail what it was like for him and his family from the time his eldest son, Beau, a rising star in the Democratic Party, was diagnosed with brain cancer, to his death less than two years later and the aftermath ... This is not a score-settling memoir, but it's clear there's no love lost between Biden and Clinton.