cover image Dear Mom and Dad: A Letter About Family, Memory, and the America We Once Knew

Dear Mom and Dad: A Letter About Family, Memory, and the America We Once Knew

Patti Davis. Liveright, $27.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-324-09348-0

Davis (The Long Goodbye) reflects on her troubled relationships with her parents, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, in this slim yet sturdy memoir. Written entirely in the second person, the loose chronology traces Davis’s regret-filled recognition that “the circle” of her parents’ “own private world” left no room for her. Before he was governor of California and president of the United States, Ronald Reagan was the affable host of TV’s General Electric Theater. Davis’s early memories, though happy, usher in the lifelong specter of his celebrity: “Whether or not a family is famous, there exists a public perception and a private reality.... In our case, the whole world was looking in.” Later, Davis’s politics diverged from her parents’ and the family grew estranged. “In his play Angels in America, Tony Kushner writes, ‘The Reagans only speak to each other through their agents.’ Not completely true, but close enough,” Davis acknowledges. Attempts to rehabilitate her father’s political legacy by contrasting his personal beliefs with the policies of the contemporary Republican Party, as when she invokes John Hinckley’s attempted assassination of Reagan to wonder what her father “would think of the AR-15s, now brazenly legal, that are being used to slaughter innocent people,” can feel like overreach, but Davis excels when focusing more tightly on the peculiarities of being the adult daughter of American royalty. Marked by unwaveringly strong prose and genuine candor, this delivers. (Feb.)