image from here
I put this book on hold not knowing if I would like it or not. I started it while waiting for Rachel at dance. Then I came home, got the kids to bed as quickly as possible, and snuggled in. I almost finished this book that night. I think, especially if you are an American, then this book is a must read.
Kate Andersen Brower interviewed over fifty people who worked at the White House -- but they don't/didn't do the typical work you think of when the White House comes to mind. These are the people who keep the residence going and their job is to serve the First Family. In this book we hear from chefs, housekeepers, butlers, doormen, electricians, florists, and many others.
I found it fascinating the peek they give into the First Families -- from Kennedy to Johnson to Nixon to Ford to Regan to Bush to Clinton to Bush again, ending with the Obamas. I loved hearing how different families impacted the White House -- from the Kennedys and their toddlers to the Fords and their teenagers to the senior Bushes and their grandparent-ly ways.
Through their words you could tell which families the workers loved to serve and which ones they... didn't. And the kindness of the First Families to the workers doesn't necessarily end when the family leaves office. One former First Lady spoke at a funeral of one of the workers. Another worker still receives Christmas cards and e-mails.
The devotion of the workers to their jobs was either incredible (or unbelievable). They sacrificed family vacations, birthdays, and even marriages in their devotion to the White House. I found it both amazing and sad.
I also found it sad when workers described the events around Kennedy's assassination, Nixon's sudden resignation, September 11, and the revelation of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. These unknown people really had/have a front row seat to history, but a seat that is relatively unknown or heard from.
This book was such a unique perspective and a fascinating journey through recent American history. I highly recommend it.