Wanting to Be Jackie Kennedy is a heartwarming story of love, loss and family secrets told by Ellie Manikowski who returns to her hometown of Chicago in 1994 to celebrate her 50th birthday. The news of the death of her childhood idol, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, propels Ellie back to her old Polish neighborhood and into bittersweet memories of her teenage years. It’s 1961—President John F. Kennedy is inspiring America’s youth to give back to their country. Ellie hears the call and dreams of a life of glamour and public service. Her dreams are cut short, however, when her father loses his eyesight and calls upon Ellie to help out in the family’s funeral business. It is not a career that suits her. That summer, the flats above the Manikowski Funeral Home are abuzz with sexual tension. Ellie falls madly in love with an ambitious medical student, and her beloved Aunt Nina, who lives downstairs, is having a steamy love affair of her own. At summer’s end, a tragedy occurs that threatens the family’s sterling reputation and shakes Ellie's faith. What she has witnessed must be kept secret, and secrets take their toll on her. In desperation she turns to her idol, Jackie Kennedy, who is mysteriously there for her when she feels abandoned by everyone else. It’s 1963—President Kennedy's assassination devastates the nation and Ellie. What she learns from the first lady during that wrenching time holds her in good stead when years later she faces the ultimate disaster in her own life. In Wanting to Be Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Kern skillfully juxtaposes the down-to-earth lives of the Manikowskis with the privileged lives of the Kennedys, and points out that in times of tragedy, close-knit families are all alike—and a certain indomitable grace can pull us through.
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