Too Much and Never Enough - Mary L. Trump [Review]
“‘Look at this’, he had said, sliding the picture out of its slot. A heavily made-up woman, who couldn’t have been more than eighteen and might have been younger, smiled innocently at the camera, her hands holding her naked breasts.”
In a book written about Donald Trump, and knowing the man he is today, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the above quote was about him. Mary Trump describes Donald as “the world’s most dangerous man”, which I think is far too charitable for a man so stupid (a man who can’t even fake tan properly). No, the world’s most dangerous man, and the man who showed Mary that photograph taken from his wallet, is Frederick Christ Trump – Donald Trump’s father.
For those unaware, Mary is Donald’s niece. Her father, referred to as Freddy throughout, is Donald’s older brother. Her grandfather, Fred, is Donald’s father. Understood? Good.
You may be expecting a hit piece on the former president of the United States, an irrelevant member of the family using the notoriety of her last name as a cash grab, but this book really is a damning and disturbing account of the inner workings of the Trump family. It focuses primarily on events during Fred’s lifetime and, following his death, a small section on Donald’s polarising presidency and the realities of his financial degeneracy. As a psychologist, the authors focus is on assessing how psychological and emotional damage inflicted by Fred impacted the family as a whole, how Fred’s behaviour created a narcissistic and dishonest Donald, and a bitter feud between Freddy and the rest of his family.
Fred’s treatment of Freddy was in stark contrast to that of Donald. Freddy elected not to follow his father’s preordained path into the family business, in turn making his and his family become his father’s enemy. Freddy’s desire and ambition to achieve what he did is an example of everything Fred believed in and wanted from his son, but his rejection was insulting to his father. It was the first sign of a loss of control. Freddy was psychologically ostracised from the family and, by association, so was his entire family. When the family lived in a flat riddled with dampness and a bitterly cold draft that made Freddy sick, Fred refused their pleas for help. Fred didn’t seem particularly troubled when his eldest son died aged 42, electing shortly after to write the family out of his will and distribute his share of the inheritance amongst his other children.
Donald, seeing what had been done to his older brother, decided to avoid the humiliation and shame, to not be like Freddy. If Freddy wasn’t deserving of Fred’s respect, then he wasn’t deserving of Donald’s respect. Donald only escaped this abuse because he served his father’s purpose. Fred broke Donald down, co-opted him for his own needs, and didn’t allow Donald to develop into his own person. He lived only as an extension of Fred.
It’s clear very quickly that Mary’s assessment of her father’s plight is significantly more charitable than that of her uncle. Learning that Fred had written his dead son’s family out of his will seems a reasonable motive for writing such a damning book. I think this is what you would refer to as “conjecture” in a court of law.
Mary asserts that the only thing Donald really has is his business acumen, which is dismantled in this book as little more than fraud and illusion. She claims the family business lost money since Donald became involved. He has been bankrupted multiple times. He had minor roles in the family business that carried disproportionately high salaries. His financial success belongs to his father and the inheritance he acquired following a well-orchestrated tax avoidance scheme. The reality of the family’s fraudulent behaviour is briefly mentioned in the book, but much more detail can be found online.
This book offers a unique perspective on a very influential family. Upon reading the book, it is clear why no other member of the family produced something like this: money. When Fred died, and his will confirmed that Freddy’s family were cut out of the will, they were incensed. As minor beneficiaries, their signatures were required to grant probate and distribute the funds – something they refused out of principle. Freddy’s siblings’ response was to deny their nephews dying son critical medical treatment as blackmail. Fred’s legacy has set his children’s families for life, and all they are ordered to offer in response is loyalty to the family and Fred’s demands at all costs (which remains in place after his death).
Yes, I suppose you could argue that this is just a hit piece, a cash grab. Freddy had been abused by his father, and ultimately their family did not receive the same financial treatment as the rest of the family – something to which they believed they were entitled. In contrast to the rest of the family, there’s very little negative said about Freddy. But given the context, do you blame her?
Donald is a reoffender, too. Mary recalls an anecdote where, on a family holiday, Donald responded to seeing Mary (his niece) in a bathing suit with “Holy shit, Mary. You’re stacked”. This is not hard to believe, given the anecdote in the opening line of this review regarding his father, and considering his various previous comments; from telling a 10-year-old girl that he would be dating her in 10 year’s time, to claiming he’d be dating his own daughter if they weren’t related, to his infamous “grab ‘em by the pussy” line. On the balance of probably, then, I doubt any jury would conclude that she is guilty of a cash grab, beyond a reasonable doubt.
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