Cover Image: The Broken Road

The Broken Road

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Member Reviews

“I was perhaps Daddy’s most important legacy of all.” 

Thanks go to Bloomsbury and Net Galley for the review copy, which I read free and early in exchange for this honest review. 

I was a child during the Civil Rights era, and although I didn’t live in the American South, I recall news footage of Kennedy’s father, George Wallace, the man that the author rightly attributes as a harbinger of the Trump movement. Instead of “Make America Great Again,” Wallace urged his constituents—including the Klan, whom he openly welcomed to his campaign—to “Stand Up for America.” When the federal government signaled that it would enforce the segregation ban, Wallace made headlines around the world by literally standing in the door of the schoolhouse in order to turn the first Black student away from a public school in Alabama.  My own father was a redneck of the first order, but even he distanced himself from this extremist. Wallace ran for U.S. president but was defeated; upon returning to the governor’s mansion, he was shot and paralyzed from the waist down. By that time Malcolm X was dead and could not have told us that this was a case of chickens coming home to roost, and yet it may well have been. 

Although the book’s summary suggests that Kennedy is vastly different from her father politically, her prose indicates that her true, bitterest grievances all center on his philandering betrayal of her sainted mother and his failure to be a strong provider and dedicated family man. She tells us that even in the 1960s, she felt his racist rhetoric was wrong, and so I waited for what I thought must surely come next: the moment she either confronted him or simply moved out of the house to another part of the country to restart her life in saner surroundings. None of this happened, as it turns out. She stayed in the governor’s mansion, thrilled by the relative affluence and privilege she regarded as her due following a tumultuous, sometimes impoverished childhood. 

The title is taken from a Hemingway quote, and in her own story designated the location of her maternal grandparents, whose simple, homespun nurturance provided relief to her mother and herself when her father went on the road politicking and didn’t send money home for them to live off of. At the beginning of the book she uses the expression often enough to beat it to death, but once her father becomes governor she rarely speaks of these kind, gentle people. Toward the end, she parenthetically notes that her grandmother died at some point back in the middle of the book. 

It’s interesting that although Lurleen Wallace was elected governor in order to circumvent what was at the time a state law against successive terms for her husband, the author says nothing at all about her mother’s civil rights policies. We see that she won the governorship in a landslide and was loved by all, and yet if her policies diverged much from George’s, that would have created screaming headlines. It’s just one of the many inconsistencies within this memoir. 

The last several chapters are devoted to her father’s redemption politically, or so she asserts. He never hated African-Americans, she tells us, but only did and said those things in order to gain office. Later in life, he asked a handful of Civil Rights leaders for forgiveness and spoke in Black churches about his error. She follows this up by pointing to the large numbers of Black voters that returned him to the Capitol. 

I find myself wondering a lot of things, and foremost among them is why anyone would consider a candidate that makes the cold-blooded decision to promote violent racism for the sake of gaining office to be morally superior to one holding the genuine belief in the inferiority of other races and ethnicities. Wallace, she tells us, didn’t sign onto the Klan’s program because of his convictions, but because of what they could do for him. And while the parallels she draws with Nixon are apt ones, the rationalization of her late father’s destructive, ethically bankrupt lifetime is chilling in its own way, but she underplays this aspect of his career. 

Her “daddy” lived long enough to appoint her 26-year-old attorney husband to the state bench. 

The second star here is reluctantly provided because she does some very nice things at the outset with regard to her description of time and place in the life of poor white folks in mid-twentieth century rural Alabama.  If you’re looking for a silver lining to this wretched work, there it is. It’s all I can find. 

I would place this book in the child-revenge category along with Christina Crawford, Patti (Reagan) Davis, and Carrie Fisher.  Read it if you want to wallow, but when you’re finished, you will likely want to shower and gargle.
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Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing and Net Galley for the chance to read and review this book. I learned so much from reading this book. I remember when I was a little girl and seeing George Wallace on TV, but I didn't really know a lot about him. This well written memoir by his daughter Peggy filled in a lot of the blanks about this man. Even though he was a controversial figure, he had a lot of passion and drive. I also liked the wayt Peggy Wallace told the good as well as the bad. Even though a lot of his views were unpopular, he seemed to be a product of his times.. Very engaging book about a political figure as well as a beloved father (in spite of his faults).
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This book was an education for me.   Born the same year as Peggy I fell a connection in historical data.  You often wonder about the children of politicians and how they feel about what is going on.   Peggy doesn't sugar coat her life or over dramatizes it but basically tells about her feelings. The  conflicting emotions and trying to understand her father .  Through her we got a bit better understanding what kind of man George Wallace was.  Half a century of history in Alabama through the eyes of a child and the woman she has become.  The issues with  segregation.  The attitude of people (even become violent) when they feel their rights have been infringed on.  Politicians who will say whatever they feel is needed in order to get votes even when it is not what they original stood for.  Does  this all seem to be a bit familiar with 2019.  The players have changed.  The races involved have changed but in a lot of ways history keeps repeating itself in one form or another.  I'm grateful to Peggy Wallace Kennedy that she shared these facts of her life and her knowledge in this book .
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This memoir by George Wallace's daughter covers an arc from an unaware child to an adult woman coming to grip a segregationist family legacy remembered shaped by these six words: "Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!" and other lines attributed to Wallace (some worse) recalled here. The picture I get is over that man's long life his views evolved while his views appeared actually irrelevant. I had the feeling he would have ascribed any viewpoint from segregationist to integrationist if it would have got him to be governor. This author's life is overtly tied to the right wing wise in American politics from a witness to a similar upswell a half century ago. She is a lucid and valuable primary source on the American political mind.
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A fascinating look at George Wallace’s life through the eyes of his daughter.There were so many layers to him a complicated man an important time in our history.Very well written eye opening look at his life and times.#netgalley#bloomsbury.
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I started reading The Broken Road with the assumption that the author may likely, at some point, describe her father, the late Governor George Wallace, as a racist and a terrible person. She would write something like, "I loved him, but he was a terrible person." However, the reality of this book is so much more complex and honest. While she does not shy away from the ugly, bigoted truth of his actions and words, Peggy Wallace Kennedy presents him in his entirety, as a whole person, not just the man standing on the steps of the schoolhouse in 1963. It quickly becomes obvious that Wallace was not "just" any one thing, he was many things, some good and some bad, and, moreover, what he was changed through the years.  This story begins before Peggy Wallace Kennedy was born and ends after her father's death and the election of the first black President of the United States. Of the younger George Wallace she writes, "...he fairly and responsibly discharged his duties as a judge. He was well-liked by the African American community. He was known for ensuring that African American lawyers before him were treated with deference, were addressed as Mister. He often invited them to eat with him in his office...African American attorneys reported that Judge Wallace, down in Barbour County, was one of the fairest judges in Alabama." Of the man who stood on the school house steps she says, "...the world saw a Southern racist." Late in his life, Wallace would attempt to explain his actions as being aimed at preventing violence, but that is not how the world remembers them or him. 
I learned so much reading this book beyond the interesting historical facts it records; I learned that history is tricky but the discussion of it is vital. Wallace Kennedy says, "No truth is ever complete, precision is not required. But each of us should be willing to speak it as we know it, withdraw it when we just thought we knew it, and defend it when it can set the record straight, mend a broken heart, encourage acts of courage, and is the right thing to do." 
This book is timely and sets the record straight about an important moment  and man in history during a time when we are prone to remember history inaccurately and only through the lense of our own biases. 
On another note, I thought the only weak spot of this book were the comparisons Wallace Kennedy attempted to draw between Trump's supporters and Wallace's. She over-simplified a very complex issue, after just making such an effort not to do so when it came to examining her father's motives. With just a very few words, she paints Trump voters with a single, very broad brush and thereby detracts from the power of an otherwise powerful story.
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This was such an interesting read. The insights into politics, the parallels drawn between the political maneuverings of George Wallace and Donald Trump, and the stark tension of value systems all work together to keep interest. There are many layers to this book- value systems, poverty, racism, legacy, forgiveness- just to name a few. This is definitely a book you will want to read. #greatbook #amazon
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A must read for history buffs!! It tells the story of what it was like growing up as George Wallace's child and his journey as a politician. I was amazed about how much I didn't know about a man that was considered a racist.
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Minor Spoilers

‘The lesson of the broken road is one of coming to terms with the past, not for the sake of forgetting or forgiving, but rather for the truth.’-Peggy Wallace Kennedy.

Wallace immediately enthralls readers by courageously recounting her visit to Selma on the anniversary of the historic march that played a crucial role during the 1960s civil rights movement.  This sets the tone for the book-she loved her father but disapproved of his political mongering to gain power in American government.  It’s all here; behind the scenes excerpts describing the University “stand in”, Wallace’s assassination attempt and aftermath, and what things were really like before the clan’s made it to the Governor’s mansion.  A forewarning: PWK isn’t shy about collating the past with the present.  She virulently criticizes the Iraq war and bashes the current Trump administration.

‘Make America Great Again is not a plan. It is an insinuation that America is not good enough to be proud of.  It is a pledge of allegiance to discrimination.  It makes people feel their way of life is under assault, and their deepest values are being trampled, no matter how misguided, hurtful, or destructive those notions are.  It makes hating right.’

The ‘Broken Road’ was gripping and heartwarming, but every once in a while Peggy served up a conceited narrative that left the historical context unsettled.  She invisions a tale of reparation, but towards the end, it sounded like she was one of the lead crusaders in the civil rights movement.  

Thank you NetGalley for the the free ebook!
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Not what I expected, which I think was more introspection of Ms. Wallace Kennedy's own part in growing up as George Wallace's daughter and then her own work as a civil rights advocate. I don't have enough scholarly knowledge to judge if this is "revisionist" in nature but it must be affected by a daughter's lens. It is a little disjointed in terms of timeline so I needed to keep that in mind as I read. I am very tired of reading the old platitude or excuse of the south being "complicated" as is stated several times in the first half of the book. Racism, compromising belief systems for power, etc. is not "complicated." Calling racism "segregation-ism" is not complicated. The results are still racist. As I was reading the early days of Wallace's political ambitions and campaigns, I keep thinking it mirrors Trump's political ambitions and campaigns, as does the rhetoric; Wallace Kennedy points that out. (less)
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This was a great memoir and I thank Ms Kennedy for writing it. It really makes you think, she was able to create a wonderful story that kept people invested.
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