Book Review: Where the Light Enters


Dr. Jill Jacobs Biden

Dr. Jill Biden’s memoir is light and love.  Where the Light Enters:  Building a Family, Discovering Myself is a candid blend of joy and tears about the family bonds which sustained an introverted teacher as she embraced Joe Biden’s sons Beau and Hunter and became a mother to Ashley.  Along the way, she earned her Ph.D. and became Second Lady.

Beau and Hunter Biden told their dad that they should ask Jill to marry them.

Sen. Joe Biden asked Jill out on their first date in 1975 after he saw her photo in an advertisement at the airport.  He proposed to her five times during their two year courtship before she finally accepted.  Sen. Biden’s first wife Neilia and daughter Naomi had been killed in a car crash shortly after he was elected to the Senate in 1972.  Jill’s first marriage ended in divorce, and  her husband may have engaged in litigation abuse to deprive her of her share of marital assets:

When my marriage fell apart, I was lost. . .I learned how essential it is to be financially independent, especially as a woman. . .you can’t always prepare for what life brings you.

Ashley Biden’s birthday party in 1986.

Dr. Biden passionately believes that children need to feel safe at home:

Child psychologists will tell you that children who feel safe ~ children who know they are loved and valued ~ tend to test boundaries more often.  Compliance, it’s sometimes thought, may be more a sign of resignation to a situation children feel is stacked against them rather than a sign of good behavior.  Rebellion against adolescent gatekeepers, on the other hand ~ parents and teachers, seemingly arbitrary rules, expectations heaped upon them ~ can help kids figure out what they believe and who they are.

Dr. Jill Biden’s official portrait

I laughed out loud when I read the story about a pitch Democratic party leaders made to Sen. Biden for him to run for president in 2004 against Pres. George W. Bush:

I was sitting at the pool in my swimsuit, fuming. . .my temper got the best of me.  I decided I needed to contribute to this conversation.  As I walked through the kitchen, a Sharpie caught my eye.  I drew NO on my stomach in big letters, and marched through the room in my bikini.

Needless to say, they got the message.

The Biden family, 2011, four years before Beau’s death from cancer in 2015.

Dr. Biden eloquently writes about the pain which comes with the loss of family members.  After Beau’s death in 2015, her faith was challenged.  At the end of the book, she reflects on her 40+ year marriage and their family:

We are broken and bruised, but we are not alone.  We rejoice together.  We preserve together.  We walk hand in hand through the twists and turns, and when we can’t walk, we let ourselves be carried.  It is the gift we give:  our strength, our vulnerability, our faith in each other; we can lift each other up.

This is what makes us family.  This is where the light enters.

Jill and Joe Biden celebrating their book deals, 2017.

While I enjoyed Dr. Biden’s book as well as V.P. Biden’s Promise Me, Dad:  A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose (see link to my review below), both books suffered from a lack to total candor and disclosure.  My sense is that neither is willing to share every private detail of their lives or the lives of their children.  I was very disappointed that Dr. Biden’s book didn’t include more and better photos.  This is why I’ve included favorites that I found during my research for this review.

The Biden family with their dog Mo in 1986 at their home in Wilmington, Delaware.

See also:

Book Review:  Promise Me, Dad by V.P. Joe Biden, 12/22/17

2 responses to “Book Review: Where the Light Enters

  1. I agree. Without candor, a memoir (or whatever it is) can almost be considered a cover-up. And without candor, it’s less believable.

  2. Thanks, Dayanna. I struggled with this assessment. Is the writer of a memoir obligated to divulge every dirty little secret? Is it appropriate to discuss the dirty little secrets of one’s children? It would require the writer to admit that they’d perhaps screwed up as parents. But, who gets perfect parents? They both said they did the best they could under the circumstances. Do their children agree? Dunno.

    At the end of the day, I learned a great deal from the book and was grateful for what she did disclose. I certainly admire Jill Biden more than I do Michelle Obama after reading both memoirs. However, I also know more about the Obama family and what Michelle was able to leave out because few people know about her history with Jewel Lafontante, who opened every door Michelle sailed through. Michell didn’t mention her or give her one sentence of credit for her legal career and tenure in the White House.

    Love your comments!

    Sending hugs and best wishes,
    Carolyn

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