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Publisher's Summary

“One of the truly great biographies of our time.” (Sean Wilentz, New York Times best-selling author of Bob Dylan in America and The Rise of American Democracy)

“A landmark study of Washington power politics in the twentieth century in the Robert Caro tradition.” (Douglas Brinkley, New York Times best-selling author of American Moonshot)

The epic, definitive biography of Ted Kennedy - an immersive journey through the life of a complicated man and a sweeping history of the fall of liberalism and the collapse of political morality.

Catching the Wind is the first volume of Neal Gabler’s magisterial two-volume biography of Edward Kennedy. It is at once a human drama, a history of American politics in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and a study of political morality and the role it played in the tortuous course of liberalism. 

Though he is often portrayed as a reckless hedonist who rode his father’s fortune and his brothers’ coattails to a Senate seat at the age of thirty, the Ted Kennedy in Catching the Wind is one the public seldom saw - a man both racked by and driven by insecurity, a man so doubtful of himself that he sinned in order to be redeemed. The last and by most contemporary accounts the least of the Kennedys, a lightweight. He lived an agonizing childhood, being shuffled from school to school at his mother’s whim, suffering numerous humiliations - including self-inflicted ones - and being pressed to rise to his brothers’ level. He entered the Senate with his colleagues’ lowest expectations, a show horse, not a workhorse, but he used his “ninth-child’s talent” of deference to and comity with his Senate elders to become a promising legislator. And with the deaths of his brothers John and Robert, he was compelled to become something more: the custodian of their political mission.

In Catching the Wind, Kennedy, using his late brothers’ moral authority, becomes a moving force in the great “liberal hour”, which sees the passage of the anti-poverty program and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Then, with the election of Richard Nixon, he becomes the leading voice of liberalism itself at a time when its power is waning: a “shadow president”, challenging Nixon to keep the American promise to the marginalized, while Nixon lives in terror of a Kennedy restoration. Catching the Wind also shows how Kennedy’s moral authority is eroded by the fatal auto accident on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969, dealing a blow not just to Kennedy but to liberalism.

In this sweeping biography, Gabler tells a story that is Shakespearean in its dimensions: the story of a star-crossed figure who rises above his seeming limitations and the tragedy that envelopes him to change the face of America.

©2020 Neal Gabler (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Kennedy’s expansive life has yielded no shortage of biographies, but [Neal] Gabler’s is on its way toward becoming the most complete and ambitious. As a character study it is rich and insightful, frank in its judgments but deeply sympathetic to the man Gabler regards as ‘the most complex of the Kennedys'.... Catching the Wind lends a cinematic sweep to Kennedy’s legislative crusades.” (The New York Times)

“A triumphant achievement and essential reading for everyone fascinated by the Kennedys, politics, and governance." (Booklist starred review)

“A vigorous, highly readable ... book full of triumph and tragedy and an exemplary study in electoral politics.” (Kirkus, starred review)  

What listeners say about Catching the Wind

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Amazing

Amazingly detailed life of Ted Kennedy. Book didn't finish at the end of his life, so I eagerly await the second volume. Narrator was excellent, even accurately imitating famous people's voices, such as Ted Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Henry Kissinger.

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close to great

the performance is good, but not great. he tries to do impressions of famous political voices, and they're not bad but they are weird. the telling of the tale is good, but it's clear that the author loves Ted Kennedy and hates Richard nixon. not exactly objective.

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  • JK
  • 03-14-21

Great Analysis

An easy read, though very detailed. Worth the time. Highly recommended for its coverage of the sixties.