America’s 47th vice president revisits his son Beaus’s 2015 death from cancer while burnishing his own political capital in this heartfelt but not uncalculated memoir. Biden (Promises to Keep) begins in late 2014, when his son Beau fought a harrowing battle with brain cancer through deepening disability, fleeting rallies, and experimental treatments. Biden tells this tragic story with genuine pathos, but in between the family gatherings and hospital vigils, he spotlights his central role in coping with public crises, including Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, ISIS’s rise, and domestic flare-ups of racial violence. Biden emerges as a statesman both steely-eyed (“I don’t think you have a soul,” he tells Vladimir Putin) and dependable (“ ‘Joe,’ said the new prime minister of Iraq, ‘I need your help’ ”) while he expresses sympathy for ordinary folks; he even gives a policeman’s widow his private phone number to call when she feels sad. Threaded throughout is Biden’s agonized vacillation over a 2016 presidential run, complete with encomiums to his fitness for the presidency and an outline of the platform he would have run on had he not decided against it. This sincere recollection of loss intermittently feels like a 2020 campaign biography. (Nov.)
"The book is a backstage drama, honest, raw and rich in detail. People who have lost someone will genuinely take comfort from what he has to say...These flashes of vulnerability are part of what makes Promise Me, Dad memorable; so, too, are the small, tender interactions between Biden and his dying son."
The New York Times
"Biden splices a heartbreaking story with an election story and a foreign affairs story. And in so doing, he offers something for everyone, no matter which strand draws you in."
The New York Times Book Review
"Biden exudes humanity throughout the book. He lays bare his emotions and vulnerabilities at losing a son with so much promise."