I can’t begin this book review without starting with how this book made me feel. This book was relatable, powerful and raw… and achieved a great feat – it made me cry.
Disclaimer: If you’re looking for Kennedy fanfare, you will be sorely disappointed.
RoseMarie Terenzio’s memoir Fairy Tale Interrupted highlights her time spent as John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s executive assistant, handling her day-to-day tasks and highly unusual other duties as assigned. No, this is not a novel ripe with scandal and mystery. RoseMarie and John shared a mutually respectful relationship filled with humor, loyalty and trust. Her role as his assistant was constantly blurred by her relationship with not only John but his wife Carolyn. John, Carolyn and RoseMarie’s job at George, JFK, Jr.’s publication, were RoseMarie’s life. Those three overlapping sphere’s consumed the entirety of her existence in her five years as JFK, Jr.’s assistant.
As an executive assistant, I recognized RoseMarie. Though she worked in an extreme situation, her daily tasks are mine. Her approach to handling her executive was quite similar to mine. Even her reactions to stress resembled mine. Even more startling, her working relationship with John was very similar to mine with my current executive. The amount of trust and faith John had in her abilities, the genuine investment in her personal health and development, the blunt honesty for the sake of good business are all present in my work life as they very much were in hers. While my life is not as consumed by my job as RoseMarie allowed hers to get (to an unhealthy extent), I could see myself in her situations – always returning to business as usual when things got weird.
My tearful moment came long after tragedy hits. After RoseMarie pulls us through her grief and descent to rock bottom. In her final pages, she’s able to pull skills and traits from her experiences to reinvent her life and start fresh. The cheesy “You do have a future and it will be better” message was completely absent in her story. She acknowledges that everything is turned upside down and she continues to have moments of grief and nostalgia. She makes grief, death and therefore, life a normal part of work. I finally felt like someone was able to put into words what life is like as an executive assistant – the good, the bad and the moments of faith-restored when you feel like a shadow.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever worked in administration or works with an administrative professional… or anyone who simply appreciates a good read. Get it here.