Peggy makes the case in Wallace’s defense that his being a segregationist did not make him a racist ... Among efforts at presenting a balanced view, Peggy draws a brief, unflattering parallel between her father’s strategies and those of Donald Trump. She was prompted to gather this personal history by her sons’ questions about their grandfather, who she recalls as a fun-loving and generous parent, though frequently absent ... Doubtless it was painful for Peggy to delve deeply into her own past, as someone whose moral views from early adolescence contrasted with the public policies of her famous father. She still suffers trauma from those conflicted years. Readers will find out more about George Wallace than they ever could have learned otherwise, and will be transported back to the heat, hatred, fear and some notable heroics of the early civil rights era. The judgment on Alabama’s fiery leader cannot rest solely on one source, but by creating her perspective, Peggy Wallace Kennedy offers a reasonable opening for re-examination.
... seeks not only to answer the ‘why’ of George Wallace’s behavior, but also to reconcile his legacy of bigotry and hatred, and subsequent redemption, with his daughter’s own legacy of a lifetime spent trying to right the wrongs he perpetrated.
The author has suffered from chronic depression and received electroconvulsive therapy for 'reactive psychosis caused by stress' even as she’s tried to ease others’ pain through civil rights activism. She doesn’t say whether the ECT helped or how she evolved from loyal daughter to social justice advocate—did she have a Damascene moment?—two of many subjects on which she seems to repress as much as express. Kennedy tells her story well, but she leaves the impression that—whether because of her Southern good manners or because some subjects are still too painful to talk about—her history involves more than she can yet say ... A fair-minded memoir and portrayal of an exceptionally divisive civil rights–era politician.