I was fascinated when I saw that Mary L. Trump, Donald Trump’s niece had written a biography of what is possibly the world’s most infamous family in the current context.
I picked it up again this year, and saw that she is writing as a family member and as a PhD in psychology. So we know what the angle will be. Also the sub-title “How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” indicates no small degree of self awareness.
As the blurb notes, she “shines a bright light on the dark history of their family in order to explain how her uncle became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric” As she states “No one knows how Donald came to be who he is better than his own family. Unfortunately, almost all of them remain silent out of loyalty or fear. I’m not hindered by either of those. In addition to the firsthand accounts I can give as my father’s daughter and my uncle’s only niece, I have the perspective of a trained clinical psychologist. Too Much and Never Enough is the story of the most visible and powerful family in the world. And I am the only Trump who is willing to tell it.”
I found this unputdownable. It reads like an episode of one of my favourite soapies, much darker and more unbelievable – as reality often is. The sibling rivalry, fights over money and power, and deceit and distrust was tangible. And so believable, because we’ve watched the effect of this creation play out in what was the world’s greatest democracy but is certainly a monumental stage. Mary’s father died quite young – he was the eldest Trump son, but he had already been stripped of his inheritance – his father having passed him over for Donald.
Mary doesn’t hesitate to draw parallels with what is happening today – and is unashamedly salty with her metaphors – I quote two of many.
“Donald was to my grandfather what the border wall has been for Donald: a vanity project funded at the expense of more worthy pursuits.” and when he won in 2016 – “(it) felt as though 62,979,636 voters had chosen to turn this country into a macro version of my malignantly dysfunctional family.”
But I think what I loved most about this book was that I felt vindicated to the bottom of my soul. When I used to read or listen to (which I had to stop) any of the man’s speeches or press conferences, I would have a visceral reaction. Mostly with a “how can anyone believe this?” face. But if I dared voice my disbelief, there were countless others raised violently in opposition – “don’t believe the mainstream media (MSM)” they’d chant. Or “the evil democrats are far worse”. I didn’t understand how the MSM could change the actual words coming from his mouth or the truly diabolical things he asked us to believe as alternative realities.
After Trump lost the election, rock legend Bruce Springsteen made this eerily accurate prediction. Perhaps he’d read the book. If I’d read it earlier, maybe I’d have seen this coming too. In fact, Mary said – “by the time this book is published, hundreds of thousands of American lives will have been sacrificed on the altar of Donald’s hubris and willful ignorance. If he is afforded a second term, it would be the end of American democracy.” Mary also noted his “never lose” blind spot, of which more should have been made, to prevent what transpired.
I know I’ve quoted a lot (there’s so much more if you read the book), in part because I found reading this book and writing this review had a purging effect. Knowing there isn’t much more of his term left to go, and having witnessed the raid on the Capitol that incited violence and caused death, I’m feeling strangely like the world will be a better place on January 21st. The purging has left me with a glimmer of hope – it was as bad as it seemed, but it’s nearly over.
“Donald’s monstrosity is the manifestation of the very weakness within him that he’s been running from his entire life. For him, there has never been any option but to be positive, to project strength, no matter how illusory, because doing anything else carries a death sentence; my father’s short life is evidence of that. The country is now suffering from the same toxic positivity that my grandfather deployed specifically to drown out his ailing wife, torment his dying son, and damage past healing the psyche of his favorite child, Donald J. Trump.”
Toxic positivity – for sure. From an unloved little boy who lied and cheated and manipulated the truth to get more, which was never enough.