By David R. Altman

“If he is afforded a second term, it would be the end of American democracy.”

-Dr. Mary Trump, President Trump’s niece

Whether you hate Trump or love him, you’ll be interested in this remarkable new best-seller written by his niece, Dr. Mary Trump.

Yes, the title alone (Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man) might turn off some Trump supporters.

However, I’d recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the man who is our president. It does address — often in painful detail — those intangible family dynamics that shaped Donald J. Trump, from his high school days through college and ultimately, to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Generally, I go into this sort of "kiss-and-tell" book with a good measure of skepticism, regardless of my political beliefs, because most of the time there is an agenda, hidden or otherwise, that the author is promoting.

However, in all honesty, Dr. Mary Trump, a clinical psychologist who grew up the daughter of Trump’s oldest brother, Freddy, has reason to be bitter.

This book, which begins at a White House dinner that the extended Trump family had been invited to shortly after his election, provides a look at how Donald became Donald, at least from ‘inside’ the family — a family more resembling The Royal Tenenbaums than The Waltons.

Here are a few quotes from the book’s many memorable sections:

In one of the author’s conversations with Maryanne Trump Barry, the President’s older sister, the author asks: “Does anybody even believe the [B.S.] that he’s a self-made man?”, to which her aunt “dryly” responded, “Well, he has had five bankruptcies.”

Later, the author again quotes Maryanne, a retired federal judge and devout Catholic, remarking about evangelicals endorsing her brother’s presidential campaign: “What the f--- is wrong with them? The only time Donald went to church was when the cameras were there.”

Then, Mary Trump writes: “To this day, the lies, misrepresentation, and fabrications that are the sum total of who my uncle is are perpetuated by the Republican Party and white evangelical Christians.”

And in her assessment of her brother’s administration, she writes that “...Donald, who understands nothing about history, constitutional principles, geopolitics diplomacy…was never pressed to demonstrate such knowledge…and has evaluated all of the country’s alliances through the prism of money, just as his father taught him to do.”

The author paints a vivid (and ugly) picture of Trump’s father, Fred, whom she described as “...creating an atmosphere of division…in the Trump family that is the water in which Donald has always swum, and division continues to benefit him at the expense of everyone else.”

Fred Trump, the powerful and irascible father who built the Trump dynasty, developed nearly 50 New York structures and apartment buildings, used his influence widely with local politicians and other business people. All of this while barely having time for his family, according to his granddaughter. His children, except for Donald, feared him.

The book’s title comes from a description of Trump’s relationship with his father, Fred. The “too much” refers to the sort of the wrong kind of attention that Donald received from his father — and the “never enough” was that love that Donald and his siblings needed but never received, according to the author.

Mary Trump has no way to authenticate many of the quotes attributed in the book with her siblings and her extended family, as many of them, including her grandparents, are deceased.

The Trump family went to court to block publication of the book but a federal judge ruled against them.

Some critics have questioned Mary Trump’s motives for writing the book, as she and her brother were cut out of the family’s will (the author’s father, who died tragically from alcoholism at age 42, was, according to his daughter, constantly being verbally abused by her grandfather and, later, hounded by her Uncle Donald, whom she said took his wife to a movie while his brother — the author’s father — was dying in the hospital).

Writes the author, “I’m not writing this book to cash in or out of a desire for revenge. If either of those had been my intention, I would have written a book about our family years ago when there was no way to anticipate that Donald would trade on his reputation as a serially bankrupt businessman and irrelevant reality show host to ascend to the White House.”

There are other parts of the book that seem petty, frivolous and superficially mean-spirited, including portions when Mary Trump complains about her uncle’s eating habits, his wives’ tendencies of re-gifting presents to the family children and some unnecessary comments about her grandfather’s rudeness as he suffered the final stages of Alzheimer’s.

This book really just boils down to a story of two brothers and their father: Donald, Freddy and Fred Trump. Clearly, the pressures that their father put upon Donald and his brother Freddy shaped what would become a tragic family dynamic that the author believes contributed not only to the early death of her father but also to the ultimate rise of her uncle.

Entertaining if not refutable, Too Much and Never Enough provides for us a graphic and unforgettable picture of one largely dysfunctional American family — led by the patriarch who now happens to be the President of the United States.

David R. Altman, a Hoschton resident, writes about books and writers. He is a member of the American Academy of Poets and the National Book Critics Service. He can be reached at altmandavidr@gmail.com.

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