25th Year Book Challenge

I turned 25 years old this year, and to head off the quarter-life crisis, I decided to come up with some goals for myself. As a child growing up, I enjoyed reading very much, but in the last few years, I haven’t been on my book game. So my first goal is to read 25 books before my next birthday.*

I decided to start with an author I got to know really well on a popular reality show. Carole Radziwill joined the fifth season of the Real Housewives of New York. Not much of the drama rattled her, and Carole always had a sarcastic, witty comment ready to fire off at a moment’s notice.

WhatRemainsCoverWhat Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship & Love chronicles Carole’s laid back upbringing in Suffern, N.Y., her journalistic career with ABC, her relationship with Anthony Radziwill and her friendship with John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette. On the show, Carole is easygoing and relaxed, and her writing style is the same as she tackles heavy situations like her husband’s cancer and her best friend’s sudden death.

The bookends of her memoir are notable deaths Carole has survived. It begins her recollection of the night JFK Jr.’s plane disappeared. Not too much detail is given away here, but she circles back around later. After this introduction, the rest of the novel tends to go in chronological order. Her childhood in the small town of Suffern is filled with lively, familial characters, but Carole longs for adventure outside of a small town, which draws her to New York City where she gets a job with ABC. Starting as an intern, she worked her way up to producing documentaries with Peter Jennings and covering foreign policy stories abroad.

While at ABC, Carole meets a fellow producer Anthony Radziwill, and this is where the book gets into the meat of the story. She describes Anthony’s up-and-down battle with cancer. Her role was the girlfriend and then wife who knew all details of all treatments and took care of everything. The only one she shared her worries with were her best friend Carolyn Bessette and, later, to the reader in this book.

Two things stood out to me about the book. First, as a former television producer and traditional journalist, I immediately related to Carole’s description of how she “researched” and confirmed JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette were missing the night their plane crashed. Carole slipped into journalism-mode and methodically called different people and organizations to rule out other possibilities. I’ve been there, calling for comment from officials and piecing together bits of the story from different sources.

Second, Carole’s description of her husband’s death was truly heartbreaking. I won’t give it away, but I was in tears when the moment arrived. It was a truly moving description, and hats off to Carole for such an amazingly written memoir.

Next up: The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley.

*Since I started this blog almost three months after my birthday, I already have a few books under my belt and will be playing catch-up for a bit.

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