Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush
Published October 24, 2017
Born into a political dynasty, Jenna and Barbara Bush grew up in the public eye. As small children, they watched their grandfather become president; just twelve years later they stood by their father's side when he took the same oath. They spent their college years being trailed by the Secret Service and chased by the paparazzi, with every teenage mistake making national headlines. But the tabloids didn't tell the whole story of these two young women forging their own identities under extraordinary circumstances. In this book they take readers on a revealing, thoughtful, and deeply personal tour behind the scenes of their lives, with never-before-told stories about their family, their adventures, their loves and losses, and the special sisterly bond that fulfills them. - from GoodreadsI'm not a political person, but I was really looking forward to reading this book. In Sisters First, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush take turns writing short essays about memories from their lives.
I found there to be a distinct difference in their writing. Barbara's essays were more thoughtful and contemplative, such as her feelings about a high school classmate's suicide and some of her college experiences. Jenna's were more straightforward and familiar, such as when she talks about meeting her now-husband.
The book focused on more than just the relationship between Jenna and Barbara; there were many stories about their entire family. I love the close bonds they have with their parents and grandparents, and you can really tell that family is of utmost importance to all of them. They tell stories of summer vacations and growing up, their memories of the White House, and how they started their careers. I feel like I got to know the whole family a lot better.
Some of the stories were intensely personal, such as when they talk about their maternal grandfather's decline due to Alzheimer's. Jenna and Barbara don't shy away from sad or even embarrassing stories, but most of the essays were happy. Sometimes it felt a little too saccharine, like everyone was just a little too good to be true.
I'll admit, I mostly wanted to read this book because of the fact that Jenna and Barbara are twins. I have a twin sister, too, so I was eager to see how we could relate to these women, despite the fact that we live wildly different lives. Twins seems to have this bond that's like no other. I thought the book would have more focus on their sisterly relationship. Of course, there are a lot of shared memories, but many individual ones are presented.
However, there were a few instances where the twin bond shone through. Early in the book, Jenna remarks that to most people, she and Barbara weren't individuals, but a constant pair. Similarly, my sister and I are most often referred to as "the girls." But it also meant that we all had a built-in best friend from the moment we were born. There's nothing like having a person know exactly what you're going through in any stage of life because they're going through the same thing. Jenna also discusses how she and Barbara are different, especially in the area of academics, with Barbara being much better at math then her - sounds just like Michele and I! But there also comes a time when twins realize that they need to forge separate identities, no matter how similar they are. For Barbara, it was embracing her love of travel by studying in Rome during high school; for my sister and I, it was attending different colleges.