Once Upon A Secret by Mimi Alford– 198 pages
In the summer of 1962, nineteen-year-old Mimi Beardsley arrived in Washington, D.C., to begin an internship in the White House press office. After just three days on the job, the privileged but sheltered young woman was presented to the President himself. Almost immediately, the two began an affair that would continue for the next eighteen months. Emotionally unprepared to counter the President’s charisma and power, Mimi was also ill-equipped to handle the feelings of isolation that would follow as she fell into the double life of a college student who was also the secret lover of the most powerful man in the world. After the President’s assassination in Dallas, she grieved alone, locked her secret away, and tried to start a new life, only to be blindsided by her past. Now, no longer defined by silence or shame, Mimi Alford finally unburdens herself with this unflinchingly honest account of her life and her extremely private moments with a very public man.
My Review: 3 stars
Once Upon A Secret is the memoir of President John F. Kennedy’s intern, Mimi Alford, who comes forth with facts surrounding her affair with JFK. After forty-five years, the press tracked her down following some brief mentions in other JFK biographies.
I know a lot about JFK through books and documentaries, as I wasn’t alive during his reign. I can’t begin to imagine the magnetism he exuded and the power he possessed. This book allowed me to see another side of him. I’d heard stories about the pool and afternoon swims as a place the President went to relieve his back pain. Well now I know for certain he also relieved a little more, as it’s the place where many of his dalliances took place. It amazed me how this affair was just overlooked by the press and the White House staffers. Oh how sensationalized this would have been with today’s social media.
It bothered me that Mimi tells us of their playful and caring relationship yet never shows any lightness and affection. There was a lot of telling without much showing to support her claims. I couldn’t get over her lack of guilt during and/or after the affair. Even if she didn’t realize it as a teen, I’d imagine as a grown woman, she’d see that he was a married man with a wife and children. Keeping a secret for over forty years was obviously tough and definitely took a toll on Mimi’s friendships and her marriage, which she articulated well.
Overall, I expected more juicy information about this iconic President than I got. Although quite short in length, the book read slowly for me. My interest waned.
Quotes I liked:
I am proof that if we’re lucky, we emerge from our mistakes as wiser, stronger, better people—and if we’re extremely lucky, happier people.”
– “When someone listens to you, they may not realize it but they’re giving you a great gift: They’re making room for your voice.”
– But I realize now that a pivotal moment isn’t necessarily the most joyful or memorable one; it is often just the moment that reverberates most powerfully.”