At first glimpse, “George and Barbara Bush: A Great American Love Story,” may appear as little more than a slender keepsake. It is certainly that, a collection of attractive family photographs and memories gathered by the first couple’s insightful Maine-born granddaughter, Ellie LeBlond Sosa, with the skillful assistance of historian-journalist, Kelly Anne Chase.

But for the thoughtful reader, the book brings more to the table than might be expected. It is, among other things, the revealing, often charming, sometimes gritty, story of a World War II courtship played out across America and Pacific Theater maps. It is a tale of first and lasting love, and if the reader thinks this reviewer is being naive or giving into sentimentality, let me state the following for full disclosure:

Though I’m not a Republican and never voted for the late president, George Herbert Walker Bush, I have long admired his private principles and those of the late first lady, Barbara Bush. What made me appreciate the content and authenticity of their correspondence, stories and candid photographs, has to do with how much they reflect in large and small ways the saga of their generation and that of my parents.

My folks met in college, Dad interrupted his studies to join the Army Air Corps, married my Mom while he was training in Wyoming, went to Italy and returned with a Purple Heart, Silver Star and Bronze Air Medal. Mom graduated and taught school, and Dad returned to his studies, graduated and went on to become a successful executive. Together they raised five children, and while it may sound corny, taught us love, respect and the ability to listen. Though they were not of the same social strata as the Bush family, their relationship was fifty-fifty, and they passed this idea along.

In his foreword, the second President Bush, George W., born the same year as this reviewer, writes that he asked his mother how she and his father managed to stay happy for more than 70 years. Barbara replied, “Both of us have always been willing to go three quarters of the way.”

Through 21 pithy chapters, we are allowed entry into the life and love of the longest married couple in presidential history. It appears that from start to finish, with the obligatory ups and downs, the relationship was a partnership on all levels.

There is nothing cloying or sugary here. Barbara kept 181 scrapbooks, now at the George W. Bush Library and Museum in College Station, Texas, and George’s mother, Dorothy, kept all his wartime letters, now in the same collection. But it is not just thoughts from the war.

The authors, Ellie LeBlond Sosa, left, and Kelly Anne Chase, with George H.W. and Barbara Bush.

The connection between Poppy (George) and Bar (Barbara) grows, mellows and matures. At xxxx time period Barbara writes; “I’m a nester and that house (Walkers Point) has come to mean roots…when I’m in my garden, planting peonies that will last 100 years in the ground, I’m planting a sweet valentine for generations. I’m doing that for my children and grandchildren.”

The sentiment, like their relationship, is true and loving.

William David Barry is a local historian who has authored/co-authored seven books. He is working on a history of the Maine Historical Society. He lives in Portland with his wife, Debra, and their cat, Nadine.


Comments are not available on this story.