STARRED REVIEW
September 2018

The First Lady America needed

By Lisa McCubbin

Betty Ford has become so closely tied with her eponymous addiction treatment center that it’s easy to forget that she was an extraordinary woman for many other reasons. Lisa McCubbin’s insightful portrait is admiring without being fawning, candid without a whiff of tabloid salaciousness.

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Betty Ford has become so closely tied with her eponymous addiction treatment center that it’s easy to forget that she was an extraordinary woman for many other reasons. Lisa McCubbin’s insightful portrait is admiring without being fawning, candid without a whiff of tabloid salaciousness.

Ford grew up in the Midwest as Betty Bloomer. An aspiring modern dancer, she was a beauty who had her eyes set on New York City and the studio of Martha Graham. But her adolescence was not idyllic: Betty’s father struggled to hold down a job, and he committed suicide when she was in her teens. Pressured by her mother to return home to Grand Rapids after a brief stint in Manhattan, Betty found herself in an unhappy—and likely abusive—marriage. Although divorces were rare in the 1940s, Betty put an end to what she called “the five-year misunderstanding.”

Mutual friends introduced Betty to Gerald “Jerry” Ford, a handsome local lawyer and former football star at the University of Michigan. Thus began a deep, lifelong romance that carried them through the exhilaration of raising a family and the sorrows of Kennedy’s assassination and Watergate.

When Jerry took the presidential oath of office in one of the darkest times in American history, Betty quickly became a beloved and admired figure. She was an outspoken and slyly funny woman who spoke openly of her battle with breast cancer, her views on parenting and, later, her own alcoholism and addiction to pills.

“While being First Lady was certainly not a position Betty Ford had ever aspired to, let alone imagined she might become, as it turned out, she was exactly what America needed,” McCubbin writes.

A journalist and co-author of several bestselling memoirs from Secret Service agents, McCubbin has deftly unearthed stories from those close to Betty Ford: her children, friends and former employees. The result is a vivid picture of a singularly influential woman.

Editor’s Note: This review has been edited to reflect that Gerald Ford did not play the quarterback position at the University of Michigan.

This article was originally published in the September 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Betty Ford

Betty Ford

By Lisa McCubbin
Gallery
ISBN 9781501164682

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