George W. Bush’s critics, if they bother to read 41: Portrait of My Father, will likely complain that what the book shows best is nepotism, the doors that can be opened by tribal connections. To the less cynical eye, however, this volume is a testament to the meaning and value of the institution of the family.
It is not a stretch to say that the book is, as much as anything else, a storehouse of examples of parents shaping children’s lives—from George W.’s opening dedication to his father and mother, to the last paragraph, which reveals his grandmother’s enduring influence. “George H.W. Bush is a great President and an even better father,” his son writes at the beginning of the book. If this comment seems surprising, remember that the elder Bush, when asked about his most important accomplishment, said, “The children still come home.”