In the summer of 1962, nineteen-year-old Mimi Beardsley arrived by train in Washington, D.C., to begin an internship in the White House press office. The Kennedy Administration had reinvigorated the capital and the country—and Mimi was eager to contribute. For a young woman from a privileged but sheltered upbringing, the job was the chance of a lifetime. Although she started as a lowly intern, Mimi made an impression on Kennedy’s inner circle and, after just three days at the White House, she was presented to the President himself.
Almost immediately, the two began an affair that would continue for the next eighteen months.
In an era when women in the workplace were still considered “girls,” Mimi was literally a girl herself—naïve, innocent, emotionally unprepared for the thrill that came when the President’s charisma and power were turned on her full-force. She was also unprepared for the feelings of isolation that would follow as she fell into the double life of a college student who was also the secret lover of the most powerful man in the world. Then, after the President’s tragic death in Dallas, she grieved in private, locked her secret away, and tried to start her life anew, only to find that her past would cast a long shadow—and ultimately destroy her relationship with the man she married.
In 2003, a Kennedy biographer mentioned “a tall, slender, beautiful nineteen-year-old college sophomore and White House intern, who worked in the press office” in reference to one of the President’s affairs. The disclosure set off a tabloid frenzy and soon exposed Mimi and the secret that she had kept for forty-one years. Because her past had been revealed in such a shocking, public way, she was forced, for the first time, to examine the choices she’d made. She came to understand that shutting down one part of her life so completely had closed her off from so much more.
No longer defined by silence or shame, Mimi Alford has finally unburdened herself with this searingly honest account of her life and her extremely private moments with a very public man. Once Upon a Secret offers a new and personal depiction of one of our most iconic leaders and a powerful, moving story of a woman coming to terms with her past and moving out of the shadows to reclaim the truth.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the story of a young girl who was dazzled by President Kennedy's charisma and whose life was influenced by the secret she carried -- He was a man of many facets -- and as she says, he was capable of compartmentalizing the many sides of his life. She knew a personal aspect of him, aside from the public persona, family life, and other parts of him, including affairs with other women, as have been documented through the years. Somehow Mimi managed to stay beneath the radar for a very long time. It was only after a diligent reporter uncovered her identity and her private life exposed that she wrote this memoir. So it was not a "tell all" book written for publicity of sensationalism. I feel compelled to emphasize this to a judgmental person who gave the book only one star -- and who hadn't even bothered to read it! It is well written and honest.
I admired President Kennedy my entire life. I personally found this book difficult to read as each chapter destroyed a little bit of my admiration for the President. Particularly disturbing was the incident with Dave Powers. I kept asking myself how a grown man could treat a young woman this way. Of course I was aware of Kennedys numerous affairs through the years from other books and this author admits she was happy to be with him but that did not give him the right to use and humiliate her.
Now I see President Kennedy as a kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The public smiling, outgoing family man and the secret schemer to get anything he wants no matter who it hurts.
I am so sad. I can never think of him the same way again!
I love reading about JFK. Don't know why because he was gone before I even started going to school but there will always be mystery around Camelot. Mimi Alford writes a candid account of her time with JFK that I just do not doubt in the least. She gives intimate details without the sordid light that might make me hate him. Seriously, we all knew he was a womanizer. Mimi just explains how he managed his relationship with her. Then after the death of JFK, how Mimi lived a "normal" life. I really liked the book.
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