Based on genealogical breakthroughs and previously unreleased records, this is the first book to explore the story of the poor Irish refugee couple who escaped famine, created a life together in a city hostile to Irish, immigrants, and Catholics, and launched the Kennedy dynasty in America.
The rags-to-riches story of the first Kennedys to set foot in the U.S. is depicted in sweeping style ... Thompson powerfully re-creates the experiences of Irish immigrants in the mid-to-late 19th century ... This study of the earliest Kennedys, both thoroughly researched and vividly imagined, is an inspired addition to a mostly talked-out topic.
... splendidly heterodox ... Thompson brilliantly illuminates the strain of Mariolatry in the Kennedys that Bridget embodied....But Thompson goes wrong in framing the Kennedy story as a melodrama of Irish grievance. The most piercingly obvious fact about the family is that they were keen to join established elites.
Journalist Thompson may surprise both general readers and historians with a Kennedy book based on newly accessible materials and differently focused on the family’s first members in the United States: John F. Kennedy Jr.’s Irish immigrant paternal great grandparents ... this winsomely written book employs cultural context, empathy, multiple viewpoints, and careful evaluation of sources ... This is both an absorbing family story and a saga of the Irish diaspora in Boston, a city that eventually accepted the Kennedys and allowed the ambitious family to achieve versions of the American dream before fate intervened.