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Book Review - The Secret World of Jon & Kate by Al Walentis

The Secret World of Jon and Kate:  The Stupidest Story in the History of the World and the People Who Covered It is now available in soft cover.  It is 251 pages in length and dense with information.  The first time I read it, as an early version, I found I had to take a break in the middle because the contents were so overwhelming.  Don’t be fooled by the flippant gossippy tone of Walentis’s writing:  This book contains some painful stories about two very dysfunctional people and the eight children dependent on them for not only food and clothing but mental health and emotional nourishment as well.

The book will be appreciated on different levels by different audiences.  The blogging community is exceptionally well-educated about the saga of Jon & Kate so for them this book will serve as a recap of Gosselin history with a few new tidbits thrown in for good measure.  Those who think the television shows accurately portray this family will have their naiveté blasted away by many juicy morsels that have been unknown to the general public until now.  Readers hoping for a good Kate-bashing will be disappointed.  (Of course Kate is bashed:  All one has to do to bash her is recount her behavior, since she displays her self-centeredness all over the place.)  But this book is not about bashing Kate, or even Jon.  It is more about the ridiculousness of the entire scene and everyone involved, including those of us who are so fascinated with it.  And no matter where you stand on this issue, all audiences will find that this book doesn’t hesitate to point out many hypocrisies, lapses of good judgment and examples of bad behaviors displayed by the all-American couple turned twisted train wreck known as Jon and Kate.

Janet Palazzotto of A Minor Consideration had this to say about the book:  “I am coming into this trying to catch up on 4 or 5 years or more history of this family. I had NO idea of the outpouring of help from the community without prompting.  What I clearly do not understand is the disconnect from the grandparents.  There is no sad story here of a family who couldn't cope on their own with 8 children:  Family and community were there to help.  Look at what reality TV editing has shown people like me and others completely unaware of what happened in the beginning - believing that they were alone, no help, no support, and the only family they had was the camera crew!  Surely families have their issues but to deny 8 children to know their grandparents & family ties and replace this with a camera crew is beyond comprehension.”   Janet said a mouthful and I think many readers who are new to this story will feel the same way.

Some readers have been less than thrilled with the voice with which Al Walentis wrote this book.  In describing the writing style in his blog comments Al said, “The style matches the tone of the story and Jon’s attitudes toward relationships.  I can vary my writing class but it appears for some candor is offensive.  Others close to Jon said this is how his mind works.”  I’ve had many conversations with Al in the past five years and I can assure you the tone of the book is not at all indicative of how he speaks in real life.  That voice is a writing tool with which Al reveals Jon’s attitudes toward women, and I think he did a good job showing just how crass, misogynist and superficial Jon can be.

My blog reader Irene expressed concerns about how this book may impact the Gosselin children in later years.  While I agree that this book may be added to the pile of negative press about Jon and Kate, it should be clear to all readers that Walentis is concerned for the children and outraged at their parents’ self-absorption.  It is my belief that as the children mature and begin to experience more serious consequences of Jon and Kate’s foibles, resources such as this book will provide validation that they are not crazy, they are not alone, and that there were many adults around them who cared and were concerned about them in their younger years.  Including Al Walentis.

Does this book say everything that needs to be said about the Gosselins?  No.  We need another book that tells the entire story with a comprehensive history including more Beth Carson information, all the Jodie and Kevin information, the blog "wars," and of course the Murt hearings.  Because of this family filming a “reality” show here, child labor laws are being forever changed in Pennsylvania.  This is a part of our history.  It is important.  But for now, considering this is the first book written about the Gosselins that wasn’t written (or pretend-written) by Kate, The Secret World of Jon and Kate is a good start.

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