When We Were the Kennedys

When We Were the Kennedys

A Memoir From Mexico, Maine

Book - 2012
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Winner of the 2012 Sarton Memoir Award

"Every few years, a memoir comes along that revitalizes the form...With generous, precise, and unsentimental prose, Monica Wood brilliantly achieves this . . . When We Were the Kennedys is a deeply moving gem!"--Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog and Townie

Mexico, Maine, 1963: The Wood family is much like its close, Catholic, immigrant neighbors, all dependent on the fathers' wages from the Oxford Paper Company. But when Dad suddenly dies on his way to work, Mum and the four deeply connected Wood girls are set adrift. When We Were the Kennedys is the story of how a family, a town, and then a nation mourns and finds the strength to move on.

"On her own terms, wry and empathetic, Wood locates the melodies in the aftershock of sudden loss."-- Boston Globe

"[A] marvel of storytelling, layered and rich. It is, by turns, a chronicle of the renowned paper mill that was both pride and poison to several generations of a town; a tribute to the ethnic stew of immigrant families that grew and prospered there; and an account of one family's grief, love, and resilience."-- Maine Sunday Telegram
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
ISBN: 9780544002326
Branch Call Number: Biography B WOO


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May 13, 2019

When the author was nine in 1963, her father died suddenly on his way to work at the Oxford Paper Company. As Monica, her 4 siblings, and her mother try to cope with this tragedy, the author portrays both the interior life of grief and the historical context of a small paper mill-dependent town in western Maine. For those who were brought up Catholic in the 1950s and 1960s, this memoir will have a very familiar ring and sense of place. The death of President Kennedy in November 1963 eerily correlates with the slower death of the Oxford Paper Company and the small town it once sustained. This book is a gem of a time capsule for Baby Boomers.

Dec 10, 2015

What a great book. I read it over a few days. Monica Wood is a natural writer. She speaks with such ease about her upbringing in Maine, in a factory town. What happens when her Dad dies when she only 9 years old and how her Catholic family manages. It touched me and educated me.

Oct 25, 2015

I loved this beautifully written book! I read about it in Down East magazine. This book speaks to anyone who grew up in a family or town in which a factory was a major employer; anyone who grew up in a Catholic family (and/or a Catholic school); anyone from a family who immigrated to the US to find a better life; anyone who has experienced the loss of a beloved family member, especially in childhood; anyone who remembers 1963 and the Kennedy assassination. In other words, this book is universal, for anyone who has lived any length of time at all. Please order more Monica Wood books!

Sep 25, 2013

An affectionate and clear-eyed backward glance at life in 1960s small-town Maine. I didn't realize how affecting it was until I started to weep reading the acknowledgements at the end. Monica Wood is such a lovely writer.


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May 13, 2019

"What is Mum doing now? Offering it up? Sending he helpless wrath to God?"


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