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When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine
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When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  3,464 Ratings  ·  504 Reviews
1963, Mexico, Maine. The Wood family is much like its close, Catholic, immigrant neighbors, all dependent on a father’s wages from the Oxford Paper Company. Until the sudden death of Dad, when Mum and the four closely connected Wood girls are set adrift. Funny and to-the-bone moving, When We Were the Kennedys is the story of how this family saves itself, at first by depend ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published July 10th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Angela M
Jul 25, 2014 Angela M rated it it was amazing
I'd recommend this beautifully written memoir to anyone but if you grew up in the 60's and remember exactly where you were when you heard that President Kennedy was killed , I would tell you that you just absolutely have to read this book .

Mine was not a Irish Catholic upbringing like Monica's but I was raised in an Italian Catholic family of five children and I was 13 not 10 like Monica was when President Kennedy was killed . I lived during those times of " yes sister " "no sister " in my navy
Lynn Plourde
Jul 16, 2012 Lynn Plourde rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir

#10 It’s the best book I’ve read in YEARS. My husband says the same thing. Agreement like that doesn’t happen very often.

#9 Monica Wood’s initials are M. W. —which surely stand for Master Wordsmith.

#8 The book opens with the sudden death of nine-year-old Monica Wood’s father, and that’s just the start of the trials and tragedies in this memoir. Yet OPTIMISM sings through its pages.

#7 Monica Wood is a fiction writer first an
Barbara A
Aug 14, 2012 Barbara A rated it it was amazing

Each summer for at least the last decade, I've been lucky to have found a way to read a book that takes place, or was written, in Maine. From the beloved "Country of the Pointed Firs" to Justin Cronin's magnificent "The Summer Guest", through Paul Doiron's excellent mysteries, Elizabeth Gilbert's wonderful "Stern Men" ( written before she was THAT Elizabeth Gilbert), the stately, proud "Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout, Colby College professor Jennifer Finney Boylan's funny, poignant memoi
Diane S ☔
Jul 23, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
WHEN I first started reading this book I did not realize how closely I would come to identify with this wonderful family. Irish Catholic, oh yes, salmon loaf on Fridays, we had salmon coquettes in cream sauce which I hate to this day. Much younger siblings, priests, the sisters, Catholic school and a family grieving a Father's early death. Yes, to all of those. How the family handled his death and how they changed in the face of it is the main thrust of the story told with honesty and a great de ...more
Aug 16, 2012 LindaJ^ rated it it was amazing
Loved it. I grew up on a farm near three small towns in Maine in the same time period -- I was in the 7th grade when JFK was shot. We did not have a paper mill, but the riverside in one town had a tannery and all its associated odors, while in another town was the shoe factory, which had closed by the time I graduated from college. My uncle was a sewer at the shoe factory and he would sometimes be able to get us low cost seconds (what made them seconds was never clear) in time for school to star ...more
May 25, 2014 Chrissie rated it liked it
I definitely liked this book and it is definitely worth reading.

Its topic is the death of a loved one, seen particularly through the eyes of a young child. Monica, the author, speaks of her father's death when she was nine years old in 1963, the same year Kennedy was assassinated. How did that death impact her own life, her siblings', her mother's and her uncle’s? You follow first the days, then the seven months and finally the two years without Dad – the "Dad-less days". This is touching, but n
Mar 10, 2016 Jeanette rated it liked it
Nostalgia for Nancy Drew books, First Friday service, rules for the stairs- so much here that this memoir brought back in full measure. Because it is written in the reality of a 9 year old or near the ending, for the cognition of 18- it also holds a frenetic quality. Which so translates into this condition of mid-century working class family and era. That's just how it was.

Bad things happened and no one blamed anybody else for the happening. Solace and prayer shared. Humor and food. Go back to
Jul 15, 2016 Pamela rated it liked it

Touching and heartfelt, one of the most poetic memoirs I've had privilege to read. After all, it is an intimate invitation to be welcomed into the life and memories of another.

THREE *** Beautifully Poetic, Softly Somber, Culture/Atmosphere Memoir *** STARS
Jul 18, 2012 Kerri rated it really liked it
There is no place more personal to me than Mexico, Maine. It's where I grew up and where Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine, grew up too. Mexico, improbably, is also the focus of the book I am writing, the one I have been working on for seven years. Naturally, I was curious. So I heeded the advice I often give to other authors: one writer's success is every writer's success. Be generous, not jealous. I tore through her book in an afternoon.

Although we a
Jun 15, 2013 Michelle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, 2013
I will read anything Monica Wood writes. Her prose is nothing short of astounding. This is a memoir of the sudden death of her father in 1963 when Monica is in 4th grade. I liked this and the beat of her family with and without the man is well-told. That said, I wasn't completely riveted. I'm not sure I'm meant to be. It's a quiet kind of memoir. I thought the connection between the Kennedy assassination and her loss (especially as witnessed via her mother) is quite poignant. The mom felt a cert ...more
Jul 18, 2012 Nancy rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I've read in a long, long time.

It's wonderful on many levels: the conversational, family-centric tone; the mix of pathos, humor and everyday living; the remembered details (and those that the author only thinks she remembers, as the afterword suggests); the moral underpinnings of life and work, 50 years ago, in a small town in Maine utterly dependent on the paper mill that caused its existence. The author even gives us a wonderful, what-happened-to-everyone epilogue. Becaus
Apr 26, 2012 Paul rated it it was amazing
Easily my favorite book of 2012, this exquisite memoir set in a Maine mill town starts out seeming like a deceptively small story — the sad tale of a tragic year (1963-64) in one family's life — but expands chapter by chapter into a profound meditation on time, identity, and faith.
Aug 13, 2012 Catherine rated it it was amazing
Poignant memoir about the author’s Irish Catholic family, living in the small town of Mexico, Maine in the early 1960s. Albert Wood, the author’s father, worked as a foreman for the Oxford Paper Company, the major employer in town. One morning on his way to work he suffered a heart attack and died, leaving his wife with two grown children and three younger daughters. Monica was in the fourth grade.

While her mother gives in to grief, Monica seeks ways to cope, from immersion in Nancy Drew books t
Jul 17, 2012 Barbara rated it it was amazing
Mexico, Maine is my hometown. I am three years younger than this author. Monica Wood was in my brother's class all through school. Reading this memoir was an amazing journey back to childhood for me. The names and places are still alive in my memory. But Monica Wood was able to create a masterpiece out of the childhood I walked through without seeing. Her descriptions of our town were exquisite ... her recollections of her family events profound.

Readers who do not have the experiences of living
Jul 14, 2012 Amy rated it it was amazing
In April of 1963, as novelist Monica Wood was getting ready for another day in fourth grade, the terrible news that her father died suddenly on his way to work forever changes her family. Later in 1963 the Woods family will be joined in mourning s the entire nation is stunned by the assassination of President Kennedy. Forty-nine years later these events will become the heartfelt When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico Maine. Albert Wood, father of two adult children and the surprising th ...more
Jun 13, 2012 Dianne rated it it was amazing
First of all the cover of this book is very misleading, however the book is a great read.
The book has NOTHING to do with the beach or the beaches of Maine.
Anyone familiar with Maine knows that most of the State is not "Vacationland" what so ever, and that is the Maine that this book addresses.
The book is set in the early 60s, in a Maine milltown, when men could support their entire large families on wages from working class jobs.
The story is a true memoir of Monica Wood's experiences.
Growing up
Jul 08, 2012 Molly rated it really liked it
The author really is a beautiful writer. One can perfectly conjure an image of the town of Mexico, the time, the architecture, and especially the mill. I do wish the author had really described her characters a little sooner, though, and in some cases more completely. I can imagine it must be very difficult to accurately describe the people to whom one is so close. You can describe their tone of voice or they way they walk, the things that make them *them* to you; but the details that make a "ch ...more
May 26, 2016 Marne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn," except the tree grew in Maine and was made into paper.

Disclaimer: I grew up in Maine, my uncle and several of my very good friends work in paper mills, and I have recently discovered the beauty which is Monica Wood's writing. (I just finished One-In-A-Million Boy.) Odds were good I would enjoy this memoir. And I did.

It was touching, poignant, and so well written. I felt very similar to A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, mostly because of the timeframe, excellent writing a
Aug 09, 2012 Betty rated it it was amazing
I love this memoir. I was maybe a little inclined to love it anyway, because I came to the book already liking Monica Wood's writing (and her sense of humor), and it didn't hurt that I live in Maine, and was brought up small-town Catholic.

I like what another reviewer, who knew Wood in school - says "...but Monica Wood was able to create a masterpiece out of the childhood I walked through without seeing." It reminded me of one thing Wood says about her father: "Dad talked about (Prince Edward Is
Aug 27, 2012 Grace rated it liked it
Having been a teenager in the 1960's in the Mexico, Maine area, I found myself reading the book to connect with what might be familiar. This is a memoir of the impact of losing her father as a young child and the background omniprescence of the Oxford Paper Mill -- employer of many in the area. Well written, it brought back memories of places and of the constable, a family friend. I felt a sadness throughout, at least in part from the gap left in their lives by the early death of her father. At ...more
Jul 11, 2012 Meg rated it really liked it
A candid look at growing up in a time when truths were either sugar coated or ignored, and surviving them. The Catholic angle is not preachy, but an accurate reflection on how life was addressed. The author used a substantial amount of vocabulary that made me grateful for e-reader dictionary (even as a Cradle Catholic with 13+ years of Catholic education and several cousins & friends in the Priesthood, I never heard the term "rabat" for the vest-like article of clerical clothing). However, n ...more
Jul 09, 2012 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Monica Woods. She grew up in a mill town in Mexico, Maine. Her father died the same year that John F. Kennedy died, so she felt like they "shared a burden" in her 10 year old mind. Her writing is so vivid you can palpably feel the loss she's endured. You can almost hear the mill breathing, and smell the mill air (which smells like nothing else, I know, I'm a Mainah). An amazing book. A book that speaks to loss, to work, to finding yourself and your place, even when the piece ...more
May 17, 2016 Sarah rated it liked it
I have to admit I didn't read the description well and initially thought this was about the Kennedy's. It's not. It's about a family in Maine. Still good- just not at all what I thought. They sure didn't seem much like the Kennedy's and the title is a stretch, but I appreciated the descriptions of a Catholic family in the 1960's.
Jun 17, 2012 Amy rated it it was amazing
Oh, how I loved this book! Heartwarming and funny and tragic and vivid. I ate it up in a day. Wood gorgeously evokes the many characters and unfathomable events that changed her family's existence--as well as that of her Mexico, Maine community and the entire country--in 1963. This memoir is the bomb.
Katharine Davis
Jul 30, 2012 Katharine Davis rated it it was amazing
A heart-warming memoir. I loved this book and at the last page I hugged it to me and didn't want to let it go. Beautiful writing and a memorable story!
Jan 02, 2017 Heather rated it really liked it
Fascinating, though apparently only accurate for the managerial class in Mexico (from a loved one who was not from that part of Mexico).
Laura Kilmartin
Jan 13, 2013 Laura Kilmartin rated it it was amazing
I loved this book.

(I hate those reviews where you have to read between the lines to decide whether the reviewer was a fan or not. I like to start with the important stuff...)

When We Were the Kennedys includes some backstory about the history of Monica Wood's parents, how they came to Mexico, Maine and also some glimpses into the future of each of Monica's siblings and other important members of their family and community. For the most part, though, this is a story of the first year after Monica'
Nancy Kennedy
Jun 06, 2012 Nancy Kennedy rated it it was amazing
Monica Wood writes with exuberance and tenderness about her upbringing in the paper mill factory town of Mexico, Maine, in the 1960s.

"Our story, like the mill, hummed in the background of our every hour," she writes, "a tale of quest and hope that resonated similarly in all the songs in all the blocks and houses, in the headlong shouts of all the children at play, in the murmur of all the graces said at all the kitchen tables."

Ms. Wood's idyllic childhood is shattered one day when on his way to
Nov 13, 2012 Jan rated it it was amazing
This lovely book quickly became one of my all-time favorite memoirs. Wood's ability to describe childhood experiences rivals Harper Lee's in To Kill a Mockingbird. Although her subject is very sad--the sudden death of her beloved father when she was ten--it is also filled with characters full of love, kindness, and resilience, as well as grief and confusion. It also paints a vivid picture of an industrial town where working in the factory brought pride, unity, and security to families like Wood' ...more
Regina Spiker
I can't describe what a wonderful feeling this book gave me - whether it's because I too live in a small town that is kept afloat by a nearby paper-mill (New Page to boot) or the sweet childhood camaraderie of the Wood sisters or that many of my childhood friends were Catholic and we grew up in the 60s... A sweet, exceptional memoir written by Monica Wood, "When We Were the Kennedys" is definitely a worthy read.

From the prologue, you will find the pivoting event that all chapters refer to: Monic
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Madison Mega-Mara...: When We Were the Kennedys 1 2 Aug 10, 2014 05:22AM  
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Monica Wood is the author of four works of fiction, most recently Any Bitter Thing, which spent 21 weeks on the American Booksellers Association extended bestseller list and was named a Book Sense Top Ten pick. Her other fiction includes Ernie’s Ark and My Only Story, a finalist for the Kate Chopin Award.
More about Monica Wood...

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“Maybe he, like Mum, believed God had delivered three extra children, one-two-three, as a sign of His plan for this couple's long, long friendship. But God had also delivered to him the Oxford Paper Company, and the foamy river it sat upon. And the long working hours it required. And the poison it put in the air. Three more girls from God might portend a long married life, but a multi-acre paper mill, with much heat but no heart, could make for still competition if it decided to bestow the opposite.
Maybe it was the work.”
“The packet of fading photos gives it away if you know how to look: always a rundown porch landing and stair rails behind, always a child squinting into strong sunlight and a grim-faced adult skulking in shadow. What must it have been like to grow up in that silence?” 1 likes
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