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The Kennedy Curse

The Kennedy Curse

Why Tragedy Has Haunted America's First Family for 150 Years

by Edward Klein
Book Review By Lucas Everidge

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Yet another Kennedy book? Well, why not. In The Kennedy Curse from St. Martin's Press, author Edward Klein presents a case for the entire Kennedy clan living under a terrible curse. He journeys back to the first of the Kennedy clan's progenitors on this side of the Atlantic, Patrick Kennedy, who immigrated from Ireland to Massachusetts during the Irish Potato Famine in 1849. Amongst other bad luck, he died on November 22, 1858, exactly 105 years before President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Klein states that tragedy has struck the Kennedys or their close associates every two years. Klein weaves much of this story through the use of unquoted sources, particularly in the chapters on William Kennedy Smith and John F. Kennedy, Jr. He carefully chronicles as many coincidences and relevant happenings as possible.

The Kennedy Curse

For example, on the difficult immigrant journey from Europe, Klein offers up as fact that Patrick Kennedy's ship passed precisely over the spot off the coast where JFK Jr's plane crashed into the sea. Coincidence or curse?

Many people looking for a light book in this vein will find the Kennedy Curse a fun read. It contains very little political information and, instead, is entirely focused on personalities. There are chapters on "Honey Fitz" John Francis Fitzgerald, JFK's grandfather and mayor of Boston, and on Josept P. Kennedy, father of the Kennedy brothers.

Klein theorizes that society idolizes and idealizes the Kennedys because are perceived as superior beings at the top of society. He works to show, however, that not only are they human but hobbled by collision course with fate.

The book includes a detailed chronicle of tragic events that have befallen the Kennedys and their close associates. Here are a few of them. These and more are explored fully in The Kennedy Curse, Why Tragedy Has Haunted America's First Family for 150 Years.

Chronicle from the Book

1858 - Less than ten years after emigrating from Ireland, 35-year-old Patrick Kennedy dies of consumption on November 22, 105 years to the day before the John F. Kennedy assassination.

1873 - Eight-year-old Josie Hannon, who will grow up to become Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy's mother, is responsible for the drowning of her sister Elizabeth, four, and Elizabeth's friend. Overcome by guilt and self-reproach, Josie retreats into religious mysticism which will have a profound effect on Rose Kennedy and her children.

1881 - Michael Hannon, Jr., 21, Rose Kennedy's uncle, dies of alcoholism, a self-destructive disease that is known in his family as the "curse of the Irish."

1888 - Jimmy Hannon, 25, another of Rose Kennedy's uncles, gets fired from his postmaster job and dies of alcoholism.

1936 - Rose Kennedy's sister, Mary Agnes (Fitzgerald) Gargan, 43, is found dead by her son, six-year-old Joe, Jr. Mary Agnes's three children, Joe Jr., Mary Jo and Ann, are raised and educated by Rose and Joe Kennedy. In the aftermath of the Chappaquiddick scandal 33 years later, Senator Edward Kennedy asks his "brother" Joe Gargan to take the rap and say that he was at the wheel of the car that killed Mary Jo Kopechne.

1944 - Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., the future standard bearer of the family, fails to heed warnings and perishes at the age of 29 in a plane explosion while on a secret mission during World War II.

1948 - Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.'s favorite daughter, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, also disregards warnings and dies in a plane crash at the age of 28. Her lover, Peter Fitzwilliam, a 37-year-old married British peer, together with the pilot and copilot of the plane die along with her.

1955 - Ethel Kennedy's parents are killed in a small plane crash in Oklahoma while on vacation.

1961 - After years of planning and engineering his son's election as President of the United States, Joseph P. Kennedy suffers a massive stroke in the first year of the John Kennedy administration. The stroke robs Joe of the ability to speak and participate in his son's political decision making.

1962 - Marilyn Monroe, a lover of both John and Robert Kennedy, dies at age 35 of an overdose of sleeping pills. Suspicions linger that the Kennedy brothers are somehow implicated in her death.

1963 - On a political trip to Texas, John F. Kennedy recklessly rejects safety measures proposed by the Secret Service and is assassinated at age 46 in Dallas.

1964 - Edward M. Kennedy imprudently insists on flying to a political event during a major storm. He is seriously injured in a plane crash. An aide, Edward Moss, and the pilot, Edwin J. Zimny, are both killed.

1968 - Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated at age 43 in Los Angeles.

1969 - Edward M. Kennedy, 37, drives a car off a bridge on Massachusetts' Chappaquiddick Island. The body of Mary Jo Kopechne is discovered dead in the submerged car. Teddy flees the scene of the accident and tries to cover it up.

1973 - Joseph P. Kennedy II, a son of Robert and Ethel Kennedy who later becomes a congressman, runs his Jeep off the road on Nantucket Island. It overturns and leaves Pamela Kelly paralyzed.

1975 - After 15-year old Martha Elizabeth Moxley is brutally slain in Greenwich, Connecticut, suspicion for her murder falls on Ethyl Kennedy's nephews Thomas and Michael Skakel. Thomas was later cleared.

1982 - Joan Bennett Kennedy, who could never keep up with her hypercompetitive Kennedy in-laws, divorces Senator Edward Kennedy and is admitted to an alcohol rehabilitation center.

1984 - David Kennedy, the son of Robert and Ethyl Kennedy, dies of a drug overdose in the Brazilian Court Hotel in Palm Beach.

1985 - Patrick Kennedy, the eighteen-year-old son of Edward and Joan Kennedy, seeks treatment for cocaine addiction.

1991 - Willaim Kennedy Smith, the son of Stephen and Jean Kennedy Smith, is accused of raping a woman at the family's Palm Beach estate. Though he is acquitted of the crime by a jury, many people refuse to believe that he is innocent.

1994 - Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a health and fitness enthusiast, dies of cancer at age 64.

1997 - Michael Kennedy, the son of Robert and Ethyl Kennedy, is accused of having an affair with his children's fourteen-year-old baby-sitter. He dies that same year on a ski slope in Aspen, Colorado while skiing backward and playing a Kennedy family game of catch with a water bottle filled with snow.

1999 - After being warned by his orthopedic surgeon not to fly solo, John F. Kennedy, Jr., who is still recovering from a broken ankle, takes off after dark in his Piper Saratoga high-performance plane. John, his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister Lauren Bessette die in a crash off the coast of Martha's Vineyard.

1999 - John Kennedy Jr.'s cousin Anthony Radziwill dies.

2001 - The tormented mother of the teenage baby-sitter seduced by Michael Kennedy is driven to drink by the humiliating scandal. She dies of complications from alcoholism.

Edward Klein has worked in journalism for many years, covering, among other things, John F. Kennedy's 1960 Presidential campaign. He worked at Newsweek and was editor of the New York Times Magazine.

Klein has also written books that readers of The Kennedy Curse would find of interest: All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy and Just Jackie: Her Private Years.

-Lucas Everidge

John F. Kennedy Political / Collectible Memoribilla:
Visit our political collectibles page for John F. Kennedy. Lots of interesting stuff!

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