Audiobook Review: Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose by Joe Biden

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and PurposePromise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose by Joe Biden
Publisher: Audible Studios
Narrator: Joe Biden
Release Date: November 14, 2017
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

A deeply moving memoir about the year that would forever change both a family and a country.

In November 2014, 13 members of the Biden family gathered on Nantucket for Thanksgiving, a tradition they had been celebrating for the past 40 years; it was the one constant in what had become a hectic, scrutinized, and overscheduled life. The Thanksgiving holiday was a much-needed respite, a time to connect, a time to reflect on what the year had brought and what the future might hold. But this year felt different from all those that had come before. Joe and Jill Biden’s eldest son, Beau, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor 15 months earlier, and his survival was uncertain. “Promise me, Dad,” Beau had told his father. “Give me your word that no matter what happens, you’re going to be all right.” Joe Biden gave him his word.

Promise Me, Dad chronicles the year that followed, which would be the most momentous and challenging in Joe Biden’s extraordinary life and career. Vice President Biden traveled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America, and Iraq. When a call came from New York, or Capitol Hill, or Kyiv, or Baghdad – “Joe, I need your help” – he responded. For 12 months, while Beau fought for and then lost his life, the vice president balanced the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family. And never far away was the insistent and urgent question of whether he should seek the presidency in 2016. The year brought real triumph and accomplishment, and wrenching pain. But even in the worst times, Biden was able to lean on the strength of his long, deep bonds with his family, on his faith, and on his deepening friendship with the man in the Oval Office, Barack Obama.

Writing with poignancy and immediacy, Joe Biden allows listeners to feel the urgency of each moment, to experience the days when he felt unable to move forward as well as the days when he felt like he could not afford to stop. This is a book written not just by the vice president but by a father, grandfather, friend, and husband. Promise Me, Dad is a story of how family and friendships sustain us and how hope, purpose, and action can guide us through the pain of personal loss into the light of a new future.

Note: this Audible Exclusive includes a powerful interview – only available here – between Joe Biden and award-winning journalist, Mike Barnicle. Their discussion contextualizes the memoir’s wide-ranging themes, while also touching upon the presidential election, current events, and what it means to grapple with profound grief.

Promise Me, Dad is Joe Biden’s memoir about his son Beau’s struggle with and ultimately death from glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Biden also interlaces what is happening with his job as Vice President of the United States during that time period. Most of that work was dealing with foreign policy issues, including Russia and the Ukraine.

Biden’s family is extremely close, which makes their journey with Beau that much more heartbreaking. Beau was beloved and admired by pretty much everyone he came into contact with during his life. The title comes from what Beau said repeatedly to Joe, “Promise me, Dad that you’ll be okay. Promise me, Dad.” Beau was the one dying yet he was more worried about his dad his own well-being. Biden narrates the book himself and you can hear the love and emotion in his voice throughout the book when he talks about Beau.

Biden discusses his dilemma of whether or not to run for president in the 2016 election and why it took him so long to decide not to run. When he talks about his interactions with Vladimir Putin and his other accomplishments, it’s clear that he’s proud of his work as Vice President – as he should be. He says that he had much more responsibility than most of the previous vice presidents. Something about the way he touts his achievements makes me think he may be talking himself up in preparation to run for president in 2020. Do it Joe!

I thought Promise Me, Dad was an excellent combination of both a personal and a political memoir. The Biden family dynamic is inspiring – now I want to do everything I can to make sure my kids stay close to each other and my husband and me as adults. Even though it’s probably clear that I’m a Biden fan, I think people of all political persuasions will enjoy this book, because at its heart, it’s about love and family.

(I received a complimentary copy of this audiobook for review.)

  • S.G. Wright

    Very difficult – how the VP was able to handle his son’s death. Ugh. It sounds like an inspiring story about the ties of family. I might look for it at the library