Book review of American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trail of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin.
Hannah and I married at her father’s Christmas tree farm in East Penfield, NY in 1972. Twenty months later Patty Hearst was kidnapped on February 4, 1974, two days before Hannah’s 26th birthday. That’s forty-two years ago for those of you keeping score!!
A 19-year older, Patty Hearst was kidnapped when she just a kid! Remember yourself at that age? I was barely pulling my act together during my freshman year at the College of Wooster; my earth-shaking focus was making the college tennis team and hoping something would happen with the comely coed from Fairport, NY, Hannah Kraai.
I can’t imagine holding it together like Patty Hearst did as the Simbionese Liberation Army took her hostage and changed her life forever over the next 18 months.
This past Sunday morning, I told Hannah that I don’t want to get the Sunday New York Times like I usually do; I want to finish this 350-page book, which I was a third through. Typically books over 200 pages are deal breakers for me. I just can’t sustain the focus.
Ah, but this book is different. Though non-fiction, it reads like a novel. Although I generally knew her story (as those of you 60+ no doubt do), I didn’t know the details and the personalities. As you may remember, Patty eventually became a willing participant in the crimes of the SLA. Or did she? It’s a compelling story and one of those books I just couldn’t put down.
And by the way, F. Lee Bailey, the flamboyant attorney how defended her and lost, now lives in Maine. In 2012 he passed the Maine Bar Exam, but the State Board voted 5-4 to deny him a law license on the grounds that he failed to prove that he “possesses the requisite honesty and integrity” to practice law. Previously he had been disbarred in Florida and Massachusetts. In 2016, at the age of 83 he is a “legal consultant” in a single room above a beauty shop in, very likely, Yarmouth, some 50 miles north of us in York. Click here for information on his Maine legal consulting gig.
And one added bonus, Jeffrey Toobin’s last chapter is Aftermath, where he updates the current status of all the key players in this drama.