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JFK and Mary Meyer: A Love Story


JFK and Mary Meyer: A Love Story

Jesse Kornbluth hastens to tell readers in the Introduction to JFK AND MARY MEYER: “This is a work of fiction, built on fact.” The sentence that follows is rapier-sharp, one of many that can be found in this brilliantly conceived and exquisitely executed novel, which comes as close to the truth of its subject matter as you are likely to find anywhere else.

President John F. Kennedy and Mary Pinchot Meyer carried on an affair for almost two years, which ended with Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Meyer would be murdered under mysterious circumstances less than a year later, after spending several months insisting that Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s alleged assassin, had not acted alone. Meyer had a 10-page handwritten diary that purportedly detailed her affair with an unnamed lover who almost certainly was Kennedy; it was later destroyed. Kornbluth makes the bold move of recreating the diary as a longer work, covering the period from Kennedy’s inauguration in January 1961 to the day before Meyer’s own murder in October 1964, with that (fictitious) work heavily footnoted. The finished product is remarkably readable, all the more so for its footnotes.

"...[a] brilliantly conceived and exquisitely executed novel, which comes as close to the truth of its subject matter as you are likely to find anywhere else."

I hope that I can adequately describe this. Picture finding a diary and reading it while someone stands behind you, looking over your shoulder while providing commentary that significantly and substantially fills in the blanks of the diary’s contents. As Kornbluth notes in his Introduction, JFK AND MARY MEYER has four main characters: JFK, Meyer, Jackie Kennedy and the footnotes. Indeed, the latter are so integral to the main work that they don’t hinder the narrative (as often happens) but rather fulfills it. That is not to give the narrative short shrift, which demonstrates, in Meyer’s voice, that what occurred was not a love story in any sense of the words, but rather a bittersweet assignation full of betrayal --- of the sort best described as “your husband is cheating on us” --- and manipulation.

Kornbluth injects into the story some occasional dark humor from the historical record, in the form of commentary from notable figures contemporary to that time and place. But the overall tone is grim and tragic, as one would expect, given the subject matter. The largest takeaway from the book is that the President’s involvement with Meyer may have directly influenced the gradual softening of some of his positions, which could have made her indirectly complicit in his assassination.

JFK AND MARY MEYER may be of primary interest to those who were alive to remember where they were and what they were doing on November 22, 1963. But the concept and execution of the book, as well as the stark presentation of the universal themes it presents --- love and betrayal, in equal measure, among them --- make it required reading for adults of any age as an example of the immutable truth that history repeats itself on major and minor scales.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 30, 2020

JFK and Mary Meyer: A Love Story
by Jesse Kornbluth

  • Publication Date: January 21, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse
  • ISBN-10: 1510759158
  • ISBN-13: 9781510759152