, President John F. Kennedy delivered a keynote speech at a crowded breakfast sponsored by the Fort Worth chamber of commerce. Before his remarks (and just before the first lady’s choreographed entrance, pink pillbox perfectly poised), the luminaries on the dais were introduced to thunderous applause, among them Vice President Johnson, Gov. Connally and leading figures in the business community, all White men. As afterthoughts, their wives’ names were also announced: Each “Mrs.
These types of “helpmeets” form the core of Alice McDermott’s crystalline, searching “Absolution,” an homage to Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American.” McDermott, the National Book Award winner for “Charming Billy,” rewinds the clock 60 years as the charismatic JFK, troubled by growing U.S. involvement in Vietnam, was fomenting a plan to withdraw a cadre of military and corporate advisers, many cloistered with their families in Saigon amid villas and servants, swimming pools and boozy parties.
McDermott spins gold from sensuous details. “Most days, I would bathe in the morning and then stay in my housecoat until lunch, reading, writing letters home—those fragile, pale blue airmail letters with their complex folds,” Tricia recalls. “I’d do my nails, compose the charming bread-and-butter notes we were always exchanging—wedding stationery with my still-new initials, real ink, and cunning turns of phrase, bits of French, exclamation marks galore. headtopics.com
Hamilton Cain is a book critic and the author of “This Boy’s Faith: Notes from a Southern Baptist Upbringing.” He lives in Brooklyn.We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.