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Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man review: Like father, like son

When Freddy Trump, the oldest brother of the Trump siblings, was critically ill, Donald Trump dialled Linda to inform her that her husband won’t make it. Linda rushed to the Trump House and found Freddy’s parents sitting in the library; they were not in hospital with their son. Nor had they called the hospital, with which they had an enduring relationship, to ensure quick and effective treatment for Freddy. After calling Linda, Donald, along with his sister, went to the movies.

Warped sensibility

If this anecdote shows Donald Trump as insensitive, it is equally a comment on his father, Fred Trump. In her blistering book Too Much and Never Enough, the President’s niece writes that the Trump siblings are who they are largely because of their father — “a high-functioning sociopath”. He had no time or patience for his wife, Mary, who had chronic health issues, or his children. He was singularly obsessed with expanding his business by building political connections and obtaining government largesse; yet the children spent their lives craving for his respect and love. His ruthless, controlling nature left them with a warped sense of right and wrong and arrested their growth in various ways. Maryanne was obedient. She learnt never to challenge her father and even “convinced herself that not asking for or receiving help was a badge of honour”.

Rob and Elizabeth were always eager to please. Donald learnt that being brash, boastful and disrespectful was the only way to gain his father’s acceptance. Freddy, a quiet rebel, chased his dream of becoming a pilot only to be degraded and humiliated. Eventually, depression and alcoholism cost him his life. Mary’s no-holds-barred attack on the family stems from the deep hurt of losing her father to emotional abuse and from being completely cut out of Fred’s will. Her story is also designed to hurt, which it seems to have done given President Trump's reaction to the book as “stupid, disgraceful, vicious and a lie”.

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If Freddy tried to be different, Donald mirrored his parents in many ways. Fred engaged in hyperbole: “everything was ‘great’, ‘fantastic’, and ‘perfect’”; lying and cheating were acceptable business practices. When the first Italian-American family moved into a white neighbourhood in the 1950s, “Fred was scandalized”. Donald’s mother, Mary, was horrified that Elton John, a “little faggot”, sang at Princess Diana’s service. If an old Fred once pulled out a photo of a topless young woman from his wallet in front of his granddaughter, Donald gawked at his young niece in a bathing suit and said: “Holy ***t, Mary. You’re stacked.”

Under the scanner

What Mary is at pains to emphasise is that Donald Trump is not a self-made man. Constantly supported by his father, he rose to the top only through self-aggrandisement and charisma, she says. Armed with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, she puts the President under the scanner. He is a “narcissist” with an “antisocial personality disorder” and “an undiagnosed learning disability”. In short, he is not fit to lead a country. When he won the 2016 presidential election, Mary walked around her house in the morning, dazed. “It felt as though 62,979,636 voters had chosen to turn this country into a macro version of my malignantly dysfunctional family,” she writes.

Too Much and Never Enough is a strategically timed book: revenge, it seems for Mary, is best served cold. What sets it apart from other books about the President is an insider family perspective. Mary is a gifted storyteller. She is scathing, yet empathetic; a Trump, yet not one; immersed in the narrative, yet on the margins. This is both a memoir and a cautionary tale — if Donald Trump is given a second term, Mary is unequivocal about its result: “it would be the end of American democracy”.

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man; Mary L. Trump, Simon & Schuster, ₹699.

radhika.s@thehindu.co.in


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