Former second lady Jill Biden’s new memoir, “Where the Light Enters,” gives an intimate peek into an otherwise private family that has experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows at America’s doorstep.
Family, food and faith are the three themes Dr. Biden — a term she prefers to be called instead of “Mrs.” that was reserved for her mother-in-law — focuses on. The book begins with the foundation her own parents instilled in her about love, and how that grew to be the most important aspect in the Biden household. When deciding to get married or to enter a presidential race, no decision is made without the whole family’s input.
Meals are where the Biden family slow the pace of their public lives and allow them to reconnect, either by continuing her parents’ tradition of casual Sunday dinners or getting down to earth with military families and service members. Food for the Bidens stems much deeper than nourishment. It helps cement their bond as their family grows or they cope with the loss of their beloved son, Beau, or Joe Biden’s first wife and daughter.
Finally, Biden is open about her struggles in faith as a result of becoming a Gold Star family when Beau died from brain cancer. His death is the most raw part of the book, where Biden gets intimate with readers about why and how she is making steps to wholeheartedly return back to it. At her D.C. book reading, Biden spoke in more detail about it.
“I’m trying to work my way back to religion, and to faith, and to prayer because the one thing I have learned is that I’ve met so many people who suffer from cancer who have prayed for me and for Joe and for our family, that I feel that now I owe them my prayers,” she said to a packed house.
The themes may leave readers with a “Leave it to Beaver” visual of the former second family, but the author admits it is not a far cry from the truth. She recognizes that she did grow up in a stereotypical nuclear family and how that has shaped the way she operates as a wife, mother and second lady. But despite how picture-perfect a family may appear, it does not come without profound struggles and pain.
Throughout the book, the spotlight often deters away from herself, and concentrates on the relationships that shaped her, which is primarily with her husband. Without a cold call from the former U.S. senator to ask her on a date because his brother had met Biden in passing, it goes without saying that her life’s trajectory would have been starkly different.
Coincidentally, the book’s release being close to the Biden 2020 presidential bid announcement may make a few passages of the text resonate as a campaign pitch. In fact, at the book reading, former Vice President Joe Biden sat dutifully in the front row and they fielded questions about their political future.
Overall, Jill Biden’s career as an English professor bids the book well. The text shows that she is a master at the art of writing and is a well read individual. Dutifully, she points out in the acknowledgements the many poets, artists and authors whose quotes she pulled to emphasize several points. And the overall tale she shares is one that only she could tell: her life as a Biden.
“Like the title of my book, that’s the whole thesis through my book: that love makes a family…,” she said.