Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Pub Date: April 2, 2019
Length: 320 pages
After years of struggling to publish a book, James Smale finally sells his autobiographical novel to an editor – Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis! Mrs. Onassis guides Smale through the editing process, and in an effort to find the book’s ending, she also steers Smale back to a reconciled relationship with his mother.
I immediately became fascinated with this story as soon as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was introduced. In fact, I stopped reading for awhile and fell down a rabbit hole of internet research to explore the life of Mrs. O. (Here are the two main articles I read: Vanity Fair and Town and Country Magazine.) I wasn’t alive during the JFK presidency or assassination, but as an American, the story of Camelot and the Kennedys is something I grew up enamored by. As I read The Editor though, it quickly became obvious to me that I knew absolutely nothing about Jacqueline’s background beyond her fashion sense.
After President Kennedy was assassinated, Jackie quickly disappeared from public life. Only 41 years old when she was widowed, she had very young children to take care of. She eventually accepted a position with Viking Press as an editor and her starting salary was $200 per week. After a controversial book regarding the futuristic assassination of Robert Kennedy was published, Jackie quietly resigned from Viking and moved over to Doubleday Publishing. There, the books she acquired reflected her interests in culture, history, and art. She eventually edited over 100 books over her 19 year career. She passed away in May 1994 from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in New York City.
I love novels about complicated family dynamics, and more specifically, stories about mothers and their children. I understand now, more than ever, that all relationships are complicated, but none more so than that of a mother’s to her children. We expect our mothers to be perfect and to live gracefully on top of the pedestal we put them on, but the reality is that they are flawed and complicated and confused just like the rest of us. Ultimately, we’re all just doing the best we can with what we have at the time, but as a mother, we’re not always granted that grace or acceptance.
I loved the dynamic that played out between James and his mother throughout the book. Using the editing process as the background for the journey, Rowley actually portrays the road to acceptance and forgiveness. When stories and secrets shape your life, there is bound to be a transformation when they eventually come out. We could only hope our story of forgiveness would heal and transform us as beautifully as it did for James and his mom.
The Editor does a lovely job of weaving Jacqueline Kennedy throughout the story without letting her take it over. Her simple persuasion is felt throughout – and while there’s no way of knowing how accurately this portrayed her editor role in real life – Steven Rowley does a beautiful job with finding that balance.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from this one, but it pleasantly surprised me. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope you will too!