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Jackie & Me

by Louis Bayard

Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard X
Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Jun 2022, 352 pages

    Jun 13, 2023, 368 pages


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There are currently 25 reader reviews for Jackie & Me
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Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

ANOTHER Book on Jackie Kennedy? Oh, Yes! It's Brilliant, Richly Imagined, and a Must-Read
ANOTHER book on Jackie Kennedy? Oh, yes, and it's a must-read! This is a delightful twist on the tale we all know about this beloved former first lady. Here's the twist: The "me" in "Jackie & Me" is Jack Kennedy's best friend Kirk LeMoyne Billings, or Lem as he was known, and the time he spent with Jackie in the year before she was married.

Lem met Jack Kennedy when they were both in prep school at Choate and became best friends. Theirs was an unlikely friendship: Jack was a philandering lady's man and Lem was a closeted gay man. Lem was poor and an Episcopalian. Still, the very Catholic Kennedy family "adopted" Lem; Rose even referred to him as her fifth son. When Jack's father instructed Jack in no uncertain terms that it was time he was married for the good of his political future, Jack settled on Jackie Bouvier. He really couldn't be bothered with all the time and effort in courting Jackie, so he enlisted Lem to befriend his future bride while Jack worked as a congressman, ran for the U.S. Senate, traveled extensively, and all the while sought out other women for his bed. This was an ingenious ploy to keep Jackie occupied and out of the arms of other men until Jack was ready to actually get married.

That's all fact. Now for the novel part.

Author Louis Bayard, who freely admits in the acknowledgements that this is "an exercise in alternative history," has richly imagined this unusual friendship between Lem and Jackie—what they did, what they said, what they meant to each other—and the result is an engrossing, intriguing story that brings a new perspective to the age-old Jackie story. Narrated by Lem as a 64-year-old man looking back on his life, the stories he tells are of the love, sacrifice, and betrayal of two outsiders who were both intimately drawn into the magnetic Kennedy orbit.

This is, after all, Jackie before—Jackie before Jack, Jackie before the White House, Jackie before Caroline and John Jr., Jackie before the tragedy that forever defined her and our country. This is a different Jackie, and one I really enjoyed getting to know.

Bayard is a brilliant storyteller, which makes this almost magical historical novel a real page-turner. Read it!

Very good
That's a great book, best i've ever read.
Lauri Z. (Washington, DC)

Felt like Historical fiction- compelling read
I thoroughly enjoyed this book yet I'm still not sure how to distinguish historical fact from the author's rendition of "alternative history" in this book. That is not a criticism, in fact my curiosity was peaked such that the book became somewhat a page turner. The relationship between Jackie and Lem was heartwarming. I can imagine having a confidante such as Lem to keep a person well balanced. I was surprised to learn in the acknowledgments that there was in fact a "real" Lem. This book peeled back the curtains on "Camelot" and I do think I found the narrative of the Kennedy family political and personal aspirations intriguing.
Sharon J. (Raleigh, NC)

Jackie and Me
While the story, Jackie and Me, presents itself as a fictional work, I kept wanting to know more about the real lives of JFK, Jackie and Lem. The author did a fantastic job developing their individual worlds, their relationships and the planned out paths they took. It made me appreciate the very lonely life Jackie had at that time and the very special friendship she and Lem had. I would recommend Jackie and Me and look forward to reading more works by Louis Bayard.
Judith C. (Lake Oswego, OR)

Jackie and Me
As a reader of all the biographies on Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis I could find, I was a little skeptical about reading an historical depiction of her friendship with Lem Billings. I needn't have worried. I couldn't put the book down and raced through it. And then was sorry that I had finished it so quickly.

The book is well written and I'm looking forward to reading more of Louis Bayard's books.
Mel F. (Auburn, MA)

Interesting read on Jackie Bouvier (pre Kennedy)
A well written and engaging book about the relationship between Kirk LeMoyne "Lem" Billings (the best friend of John F. Kennedy) and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, before she became the iconic First Lady. Bayard writes in the voice of Lem who developed a friendship with Jack Kennedy when they were students at Choate. They bonded by their mutual dislike of Choate's rules and headmasters. Bayard portrays Jackie Bouvier (before she became a Kennedy) as "The scrapping career girl with homemade clothes and ladders in her stockings…who doubted herself at every move." Jack Kennedy initiated the friendship between Lem and Jackie since he was so focused on his political career that he didn't have the time for a proper courtship. Bayard uses a combination of fact and fiction to describe the friendship between Lem and Jackie which appeared as a "vetting process" to determine Jackie's suitability as a politician's wife and addition to the Kennedy clan. Lem became a confidante to this "other" Jackie- a young woman who was more naïve and vulnerable to the handsome, charismatic then Congressman from Massachusetts and his high-profile powerful family. This read is an interesting insight into one of the most famous of relationships that garnered interest by both the public and the press.
Lloyde N. (Olympia, WA)

Reading for Pleasure
One of my favorite sentences in the book starts in Chapter 2, "One of the things about being retired is you either give up on reading all those books you said you would or you finally get around to them". This is a book that because of retirement I had the opportunity to read and fully savor. There are many places in the book where the reader will learn new facts about Jackie Bouvier and her relationship with Lem Billings, and the doors he opened for her. The cast of characters is superb and Bayard has caught the subtle nuances of mid-century life. I recommend this book, and enjoyed it.
Jennifer B. (Oviedo, FL)

Oh my! This has been a deliciously fun book! Louis Bayard has written a story that readers will consume eagerly. Although we know going in this a novel, it's tempting to conjecture what parts are true or based in truth. The story of Jackie before her marriage to JFK was not familiar to me. Their friendship with Lem Billings was also news to me, but I enjoyed every antidote about the triad. Louis Bayard has done well with his foray into romantic storytelling. He remains one of my favorite writers.

Beyond the Book:
  Lem Billings and the Kennedys

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