Come to the Edge: A Love Story by Christina Haag (Spiegel & Grau, $15.00, 276 pages)
“…there are those you love no matter how much they hurt you, no matter how many years have passed since you felt them in the morning. I did not know how long it would take to get over such a love…”
The hardbound release of Come to the Edge bore the subtitle, A Memoir. The re-release has what is perhaps a more appropriate subtitle, A Love Story. This is a grand telling of a love affair between a young man and a young woman that ran for five years; one that did not end in marriage and a happily ever after existence.
The woman was the actress Christina Haag and the man was the son of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, Jr. Young love is hard enough as it is, but consider the plight of a female whose boyfriend is one of the best-known people on the planet. Eric Pooley of Time Magazine was to write that, “Kennedy had to work through (questions of identity and self-image) while trapped inside a brightly lit media fun house with distorted mirrors all around.”
Early on, the love story had the makings of a fairy tale, with a young ambitious woman (Haag) – an extrovert since childhood – meeting America’s prince (JFK, Jr.) in Manhattan. And – oh, yes – Haag was in some sense a younger version of John’s mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. John was to say to Christina, “You sound like my mother…”; while Mrs. Onassis was to tell her, “I was watching you earlier – you reminded me of me.”
Suffice it to say that we don’t often learn of the details of private loves and losses, other than in works of fiction or in the biographies of prominent Hollywood actors but Haag is very transparent here about what happened – the good and the bad. At one point she tells us that, “I saw myself growing old with him.” Later she explains that their falling apart was not the stuff of great drama, their relationship (which was first a long-term friendship before it became a romance) simply slowly faded-out and away.
Kennedy comes off in this telling as a very likeable young man, one who was constantly attempting to find himself while getting ever closer to the line between safety and recklessness. What’s lacking is a sense of who he really was – perhaps he had not matured enough in Haag’s presence for her to define this. As an aside, it was in reading the novel One Day and encountering the character of Dexter Mayhew that I wondered if this was a glimpse of JFK, Jr. Consider: “There was something feline about him.” “…he had the knack of being perpetually posed for a photograph.” “Clearly he knew he was being looked at…” And we know that Dexter was to say about himself, “Everyone likes me. It’s my curse.”
So perhaps John Kennedy, Jr. had to struggle with a different type of curse during his lifetime – the curse of being one of the world’s favorite sons, greeted with adoration and adulation (and lust), even when he wasn’t quite sure he’d done enough to earn it. Thanks to Haag, the reader does come to know his mother, Mrs. Onassis, quite well. The former First Lady comes across as a woman of grace, charm, dignity and loyalty. Not all of the Kennedys are portrayed in such a positive light, but then this adds a sense of honesty and directness to the account.
“I had the sense that brokenness meant approach and that beauty was something mixed of shadow and decay. That it was made, in part, from the pieces of the past and the things that are left behind.”
Haag’s prose is distinct and memorable as she tells us about a five-year love affair with a man who married another, and who then – like his father – died all too young. This memoir is just the right length. And there’s another true story waiting in the wings to be told by this actress (another memoir). That will be the story of her battle to survive breast cancer. Based on the compassionate nature of this account, it will be one to buy.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.