I love people. It is almost a fault. I’m always interested in new people when I meet them. I feel treated when someone shares their experiences with me. I like memoirs for the same reason. A well written memoir is one that feels generous, like someone is opening up to you during a visit. Tonight I finished “Come to the Edge” by Christine Haag chronicling her relationship with John Kennedy Jr. Her memoir is as lovely as it comes.
Christine Haag grew up in the same echelon as the Kennedy children. Catholic, wealthy and intelligent, her paths cross from childhood through young adulthood. She’s a little older than I am, I can’t relate to the places she went or the things she saw. I don’t have her privilege or her education. Where she succeeds tremendously is I remember what it felt like to be young, to be in love, to have a dream of my own.
I love her openness in sharing what it felt like to love the wildly dreamy JFK Jr. I loved the everyday domestic details of visits to Red Gate Farm. The easy life of visiting friends who know you well, having a good book to read, trading gifts, heated arguments. Love letters and sulking. Climbing through windows and sleeping on beaches. And like the title suggests, a love on the edge. A daring push against nature in a tiny kayak at the wrong time of day, except this time, she was the one on crutches and he rescued her, never giving up. The miracle of a reprieve.
She is brave. Imagine if you were her, could you have laid yourself so bare? I’m glad she decided to write. I’m glad she waited. I’m sure if she wrote when she was 30 or 40 the book would not have been as beautiful. She puts herself out there. Her voice is honest and simple. I liked getting to know JFK Jr. through her eyes. I expected to love the book because it was about JFK Jr, but I found instead that I loved her voice and her way of looking at things.
The book is full of small surprises that make you wonder. For instance, the first time JFK Jr. visited Cumberland Island, he was with her. She seems like the sort of person that draws beauty from everywhere. Cumberland Island is the place JFK Jr choose to have his very private wedding to Carolyn Bessette. The iconic wedding photo of the the couple posed on the steps of the tiny African Baptist Church is set in my mind. But I was not moved to learn more about the island following their wedding. It was just a bit of Kennedy trivia. After reading about Cumberland Island in Christina Haag’s words, I wanted to learn more about this special place. I scrolled through pictures of unspoiled beach, ruined manors, wild horses. Pure magic. My friend Jenny started working through her bucket list after surviving cancer. She inspired me to articulate my own list. Instead of just thinking “I want to do that someday” and never speaking it, I will write it down. Cumberland Island is on my list.
I hope Christine Haag writes more. She is wonderfully talented. I know I’m not saying very much about what she wrote in the book. I think that with a book like “Come to the Edge” she will have her readers at JFK Jr. and there is no need for me to embellish. She says it better than I do.
It will be a long time before I travel to Cumberland Island. I’ll never merit an invite to Red Gate Farm or have Mrs. Onassis lend me a book to read outside. But I can google Mrs. Onassis’ mint tea recipe. And I downloaded a copy of Riders to the Sea by John Millington Synge to read. Do you have dreams you postponed? What are you waiting for?
Christina includes the lyrics to the song “The Skye Boat Song” in her book, I’ll close with them here:
Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing,
Onward, the sailors cry.
Carry the lad that’s born to be king
Over the sea to Skye.
Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep,
Ocean’s a royal bed.
Rock’d in the deep Flora will keep
Watch o’er your weary head.