November 24, 2018
Promise Me, Dad
Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose by Joe Biden
Nonfiction - Memoir
2017 Audible Studios
Read by Joe Biden
Finished on February 3, 2018
Rating: 3/5 (Good)
A deeply moving memoir about the year that would forever change both a family and a country.
In November 2014, thirteen members of the Biden family gathered on Nantucket for Thanksgiving, a tradition they had been celebrating for the past forty years; it was the one constant in what had become a hectic, scrutinized, and overscheduled life. The Thanksgiving holiday was a much-needed respite, a time to connect, a time to reflect on what the year had brought, and what the future might hold. But this year felt different from all those that had come before. Joe and Jill Biden's eldest son, Beau, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor fifteen months earlier, and his survival was uncertain. "Promise me, Dad," Beau had told his father. "Give me your word that no matter what happens, you're going to be all right." Joe Biden gave him his word.
Promise Me, Dad chronicles the year that followed, which would be the most momentous and challenging in Joe Biden's extraordinary life and career. Vice President Biden traveled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America, and Iraq. When a call came from New York, or Capitol Hill, or Kyiv, or Baghdad -- Joe, I need your help -- he responded. For twelve months, while Beau fought for and then lost his life, the vice president balanced the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family. And never far away was the insistent and urgent question of whether he should seek the presidency in 2016.
The year brought real triumph and accomplishment, and wrenching pain. But even in the worst times, Biden was able to lean on the strength of his long, deep bonds with his family, on his faith, and on his deepening friendship with the man in the Oval Office, Barack Obama.
Writing with poignancy and immediacy, Joe Biden allows readers to feel the urgency of each moment, to experience the days when he felt unable to move forward as well as the days when he felt like he could not afford to stop.
This is a book written not just by the vice president, but by a father, grandfather, friend, and husband. Promise Me, Dad is a story of how family and friendships sustain us and how hope, purpose, and action can guide us through the pain of personal loss into the light of a new future.
I enjoyed this honest story about Joe Biden's struggle with his son's illness and untimely death, but I would have had greater appreciation had it focused more on his family life and less on foreign affairs and diplomatic crises. I picked up the book, looking to read a tribute to Beau and learn how his family dealt with the loss of their son. I didn't expect to read so much about Joe's experiences in office or his dealings with unstable countries. It was just a little too self-serving for my taste.
Note about the audio:
I listened to Promise Me, Dad on audio (which is read by Biden) and found Joe's voice evenly paced and soothing, although he frequently dropped the volume of his voice, making it very difficult to understand him as he read.