("Too Much and Never Enough… How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man," by Mary L. Trump, Simon & Schuster, 2020, $28 hardcover.)
Any American who cares about the state of our democracy today or the future of the country since Donald J. Trump stepped into the Oval Office should read Mary L. Trump's tale of a poster family of dysfunction – malignant family dysfunction.
A disheartening, but fascinatingly fast read, Mary L.'s writing is to be admired for its honesty and lack of tawdry gossip and sensationalism. Readers who expect any of that from this book will be sorely disappointed.
She's the no-nonsense narrator of a saga, just laying it all out for the world to see.
No doubt, it couldn't have been easy.
The outright villain of the story is Fred Trump, the pater familias. Mary portrays him as a ruthless businessman with a killer instinct who sought and took every advantage to achieve wealth, his only life’s ambition. He was the sole authority in his family of two daughters and three sons. The author shows him as a man whose wife counted for nothing and portrays her as not much of a parent either. There was obviously no love in this family.
Mary, 55, is the daughter of Fred Trump Jr., the president's older brother, who died in 1981 at the age of 42. She was 16 years when her father died of an alcohol related illness.
It became time for the rise of Daddy's favorite, Donald, who Mary said has "the killer instinct that Fred Trump Sr. so much admired."
Donald was Fred’s clone in almost all respects, save for one big one. But when Freddy washed out as the logical heir to the Trump companies and fortune – his heart wasn’t in real estate, he wanted to fly planes -- Fred went to Donald, who was even meaner than Fred – they were both, at the very least, sociopaths (Mary Trump prefers the term “high functioning sociopaths” to the term so many writers use about the Trumps, “malignant sociopaths”) – and, irony of ironies, as it turned out, Donald was a terrible businessman skilled only at losing money, not making it. THAT was the big, glaring difference between Killer Don and Killer Fred.
But he was flamboyant, Donny was, and he garnered a lot of press. Fred Trump loved the media attention his next-to-youngest child got. Mary Trump writes that Fred collected every news clipping that mentioned Donald and piled it high on tables.
People asked Mary Trump why she didn't tell her story before the 2016 election, thinking it may have changed the outcome then. But she competently explains why.
The gist is that too many people – like Fred and his news clippings and viewers of the popular "The Apprentice" reality tv show – might not have believed one iota of what she had to say, and that others would probably have dismissed her as a disinherited and disgruntled family member devastated by the ugly treatment her father received.
Mary lays out some facts in her book, too: the Trumps got many breaks, from government loans and political connections. In fact Fred Trump depended very much on these two examples of largesse; there was always the rumor, too, of alleged mob connections; and then there was the media, a fawning press that thought Donald was a scream, such good, funny copy, and made much of everything Donald Trump’s touched and did in order to sell more newspapers. Mary Trump adds how important power/dominance was to Fred Trump, and the keystone to what he taught his children.
“The person with the power (no matter how arbitrarily that power was conferred or attained) got to decide what was right and wrong."
Additional revelations from Mary's book: the Trumps did not like paying taxes and there is still much, it is said, to be uncovered about their financial dealings/manipulations and about the alleged setting up of dummy companies that might have hidden their massive profits.
New York Times investigative reporters, who first broke the story of the Trump family financial shenanigans – and told it so well – got the help of Mary, who took it upon herself to share private financial documents with them in 2018. She had debated doing this when first approached by these reporters and then realized it was her duty to expose the dealings
The author happens to be a licensed clinical psychologist whose specialty is psychopathology. She readily concedes Donald Trump is a sociopath and a narcissist who could not think more highly of himself, but she stops there, saying that his personality is much more complex and unknowable than any of us realizes, as he would never sit down for the battery of tests that would reveal the true story of what he is and why he behaves the way he does.
Hers is a scathing assessment of her uncle, but she is always controlled in her writings and in what conclusions she draws, leaving the reader to decide for themselves. No, this is not a gossipy tell-all but a reasoned and thoughtful account of what she saw and heard growing up a Trump and what she saw and heard as an adult (with a PhD in psychology behind her) interacting with her family.
She writes that her uncle “understands nothing about history, constitutional principles, geopolitics, diplomacy (or anything else, really.)” She never actually believed he could be elected president, as many of did not. But the morning after the 2016 vote was in, she shares with us her shock at hearing her "awful uncle" is now President of the United States, with almost 63 million voters who “had chosen to turn this country into a macro version of my malignantly dysfunctional family.”
This is not a pleasant read – the citing of the taking away of medical insurance from a terribly ill baby is repellent, as is the lack of love, the utter nastiness, shown to Freddy Trump’s family -- his wife and children -- and how the remaining family members after Fred Trump Sr.’s death cheated those family members out of the trust fund Fred had set up that they should have inherited. Meanwhile, they – the four remaining siblings -- further enriched themselves.
But suffice it to say, that after the lawsuits trying to prevent this powerful book from publication, the deed is done and the awfulness of the Trump family is exposed as a matter of record. There is no talking back – no explanations that will wash – at how repellently and malignantly they behaved to family members not in step with them.
But maybe Mary Trump has the last laugh. In the past week, the new book, titled "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man," has sold more than 1.35 million copies, according to publisher Simon and Schuster.