[Review] Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy by Kate Clifford Larson, narrated by Bernadette Dunne

Publisher and Publication Date: Blackstone Audio, Inc. October 6, 2015.
Genre: Biography. Nonfiction.
Listening Length: 7 hours and 44 minutes.
Format: Audible audiobook.
Source: Self-purchase through membership in Audible.
Audience: Readers of biographies. Readers of mental health’s impact on a family. Readers with an interest in the Kennedy family.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon Audible link

To read more information about Rosemary Kennedy:
National Parks Service
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

This is an hour-long video, but important photographs are shared by the author, Dr. Larson.


Rosemary Kennedy was born September 13, 1918. She was the 3rd child born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy. She was the eldest daughter. Her older brothers were Joseph Patrick and John Fitzgerald. The other Kennedy children in order: Kathleen Agnes, Eunice Mary, Patricia, Robert Francis, Jean Ann, Edward (Ted) Moore.

Rosemary’s birth was difficult; and it is important to note the circumstances of her difficult birth led to her intellectual disability. Rosemary’s developmental progress was slow: walking, feeding herself, and talking.
Rosemary was tutored privately in the home, and she attended private schools. Later in life she lived at a private school in Wisconsin. Rosemary died in 2005.

Rosemary: The Hidden Daughter shares the struggles in Rosemary’s life and how her family responded. Their response changed through the years from trying to hide her (or cover-up) to becoming involved in helping the intellectually disabled through conversation, educating the public, education for the disabled, and the Special Olympics.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed listening to this Audible book. I’m a visual learner, but I am beginning to listen to more Audible books.

The narrator is Bernadette Dunne. She has a rich deep voice that is easy to listen.

What I learned through reading Rosemary:

1. Rosemary shows the rest of the family. The focus is Rosemary, but her parents and siblings are a huge part of the book. I have a better grasp of the dynamics of the whole family. I have a better understanding of how they felt about her disability (especially their lack of knowledge about her condition.) And how through the years their mindset and opinions changed about her condition. Some of her siblings, for example, Eunice, became outspoken and actively involved in how to help those with intellectual disabilities.

2. This is not an enjoyable feature of the book, but I feel it needs to be included, the lobotomy treatment on Rosemary when she was 23. This is heart-breaking to read. Gut-wrenching is more descriptive. Her father, Joe Kennedy, felt this treatment would help her. Instead, her condition became worse.

3. Joe and Rose had high expectations of their children. The Kennedy children were to be high achievers. They were to be physically fit and active. Rosemary could not accomplish their ideas and dreams. It is easy for me to disagree with her parent’s choices, especially the lobotomy. I live in a different generation. A generation that reads and studies, searches the Internet to find answers, and engages in conversation about the hard stuff in life. Previous generations did not have medical advancement and knowledge, and they did not talk about the hard stuff. Once upon a time, Children with intellectual disabilities or other types of disabilities were either cared for in the home by parents or they were sent to a state school. In some instances, the families never went to visit the disabled person.

4. What I enjoyed reading the most in the book is how Eunice became a huge advocate for the disabled. She grew close to Rosemary. She adored Rosemary. Eunice became, in essence, Rosemary’s angel.


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