Book Review: My Life by Bill Clinton

At almost four (4) pounds and one thousand (1,000) pages, Bill Clinton’s My Life is quite hefty. Beyond his marked candor, this former President unearths with each sentence, an incredible amount of detail in every sentence. He delivers his narrative with poise and fluidity, bundling the embarrassing and the poignant together in a singularly cohesive narrative. To this end, he creates an autobiography that is not just a portrait of an American icon, but also an intentional portrait of the country that elected him in the latter decades of the twentieth century.

Clinton invites us into his old photo albums, the many conversations he had with his kinfolk in Arkansas, and even into the very first memories he has of his wife Hillary, saying in one of his more memorable lines: “With Hillary there was no arm’s length. She was in my face from the start, and, before I knew it, in my heart.”

Clinton’s own story as he tells it provides insight into the stories of ordinary Americans, Americans that ultimately influenced this former president’s policies while in office. Clinton leaves the reader with an understanding that is both natural and commonly dismissed: when choosing our leaders it is in fact important to examine their family life and their own history, how they grew up and where they came from. If nothing else, these facts of a person’s life are apt to reveal to us the policies and the issues that he or she will be most compelled to champion when in office.

He shares his diary and his memories, mementos from the past that harken back to an age when he was not so sure of himself. In so doing he draws beyond the material surface of who he is and taps into the very essence of his soul to actually show the kind of man he is. Here we see a young man who has fought against himself, who has questioned his motives and actions and who has come out of his inner struggle affirmed that although he was once afraid he would lose his soul, he knows now that it is too integral to who he is to ever be lost, even in a world that can be as treacherous as politics.

At the heart of this biography is a man who very much understands himself, as he proves to be a man much greater than the totality of the scandals that so tainted his last few years in office or the decisions he made that would inform this country’s future. Instead, he emerges a man whose own story is rooted so firmly in that of his grandparents’ and mother’s, in the stories of the father he never had, the students he taught, and the constituents and neighbors he grew up talking to. But even more in this memoir there emerges a man who believes so much in America and her future that in writing a novel entitled “My Life,” he has memorialised the stories of this nation’s people.

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