All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Too Much And Never Enough by Mary L. Trump

on November 3, 2020

Too Much And Never Enough: How my family created the world’s most dangerous man
Mary L. Trump
Simon & Schuster
2020, 225p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

In this revelatory, authoritative portrait of Donald J. Trump and the toxic family that made him, Mary L. Trump, a trained clinical psychologist and Donald’s only niece, shines a bright light on the dark history of their family in order to explain how her uncle became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric.

Mary Trump spent much of her childhood in her grandparents’ large, imposing house in the heart of Queens, where Donald and his four siblings grew up. She describes a nightmare of traumas, destructive relationships, and a tragic combination of neglect and abuse. She explains how specific events and general family patterns created the damaged man who currently occupies the Oval Office, including the strange and harmful relationship between Fred Trump and his two oldest sons, Fred Jr. and Donald.

A first-hand witness to countless holiday meals and family interactions, Mary brings an incisive wit and unexpected humor to sometimes grim, often confounding family events. She recounts in unsparing detail everything from her uncle Donald’s place in the family spotlight and Ivana’s penchant for re-gifting to her grandmother’s frequent injuries and illnesses and the appalling way Donald, Fred Trump’s favorite son, dismissed and derided him when he began to succumb to Alzheimer’s.

Numerous pundits, armchair psychologists, and journalists have sought to parse Donald J. Trump’s lethal flaws. Mary L. Trump has the education, insight, and intimate familiarity needed to reveal what makes Donald, and the rest of her clan, tick. She alone can recount this fascinating, unnerving saga, not just because of her insider’s perspective but also because she is the only Trump willing to tell the truth about one of the world’s most powerful and dysfunctional families.

So, this was fascinating.

I don’t really know much about Donald Trump to be honest – not about his backstory, not about his time in the 1980s and 90s developing swathes of Manhattan. I was a child in the 80s and the early half of the 90s and I’ve never watched an episode of The Apprentice or Celebrity Apprentice. I don’t really like reality shows – what I knew about him before 2015 or so really just amounted to reading a few articles in gossip magazines about his various divorces, seeing him in a few cameos (Home Alone, The Nanny, WWE of all places) and the weird way he seemed to be oddly attracted to his own daughter. It wasn’t until he emerged as a seemingly credible chance of becoming the Republican nominee for president, did I start paying attention. I hadn’t before, because I hadn’t thought it would be possible. And then well, despite what the polls said, despite the fact that he appears hopelessly unqualified, out of his depth and actually, not that intelligent, he won. And yikes.

As you may have guessed, I’m not a fan. We do not align politically and I find his personality repulsive. But at the same time, it’s hard not to be curious about him. How on earth does someone with seemingly so little ability go so far? People keep saying he’s a genius, that he’s actually really smart, that he’s a billionaire…..but he has an average education, was bankrolled by an extremely wealthy father who had accumulated assets worth almost $1b, and seems to have more failures than successes. I didn’t know much about his family before this so I thought it’d be interesting. And it certainly was.

There’s actually a large portion of this book where I felt sorry for Donald Trump. It’s possible that both his parents were sociopaths – it seems as though his father, Fred Trump Sr, certainly was. A seemingly cold, emotionless man who didn’t concern himself with the parenting or nurturing of his children, he worked long hours and left the raising of them to his wife. When she was significantly ill when Donald was about 2 (she nearly died) it seems as though the children were mostly left to fend for themselves. For months. They had a housekeeper and a grandmother who ensured they were fed and clothed but seemingly little else. That sort of neglect in a person’s formative years, surely does something to a child. And perhaps Donald is intelligent in that he seemed to astutely guess what pleased their father (a hard man) and what did not. His sort of sly coping mechanism was to ridicule his older brother Freddy, a shyer personality who also earned his father’s scorn. Supposedly the heir apparent, it didn’t take long for Fred Snr to decide he favoured Donald’s more brash, bullying personality who showed no weakness and tolerated no one laughing at him. Freddy was Mary’s father and he died young at 42 – he had physical ailments, revolving around his heart but he was also a hard alcoholic and it’s pretty clear that Mary believes her father was driven to drink by his own father, Fred Snr’s treatment of him, his high expectations but then also his ridicule.

Does Mary Trump have an axe to grind in this? Almost certainly. Her father died, after years of being mocked, ridiculed, treated like a servant and what’s even worse was the way he was basically erased from the family after he died – like dying was a weakness that Fred Snr couldn’t tolerate. She and her brother were also wiped from the grandfather’s will – when he died, the 20% of their father’s share that should’ve been left to them, was redistributed to the other siblings. They were bullied and hoodwinked, lied to and ostracised by the other family members when they wanted to look into their options. The man was worth almost a billion dollars, but they begrudged them basically anything – money does things to people. It certainly did a lot to this family – despite Donald’s lavish lifestyle, the father wasn’t like that. He operated his businesses in an entirely different way, which makes his indulging of Donald constantly, so strange. He was obviously very smart, Fred Snr – he took advantage of a lot of post-WWI schemes to stimulate the economy and was able to secure large interest free loans to develop properties he already owned for housing, he didn’t go into debt or borrow heavily. In fact he was very adamant about not doing that – but in the 80s when Donald decided the new market in Manhattan was the direction they should go in, he funnelled large amounts of cash into Donald’s projects and Donald also borrowed incredibly heavily, owing hundreds of millions of dollars to banks 30 years ago. At one point in this, Mary discusses how the banks had a meeting and put Donald on a “450k a month allowance” because they needed to preserve his perceived lifestyle, so investors and the like didn’t lose confidence. It’s mind-boggling.

In reading this, it’s actually not hard anymore, to see how Donald Trump became Donald Trump, man who never does anything wrong. The man who takes no advice, doesn’t learn from anything and who seems to lack anything remotely resembling compassion and empathy. The man who calls veterans “losers” and waves a hand at 200,000+ Americans who died of coronavirus. As an example, when Mary’s father was dying, Donald and one of his sisters went to the movies. Because that’s normal behaviour.

This family is a clusterfuck. They’ve all been seemingly complicit in tax fraud and evasion, in trying to screw each other over – after all it seems to be what they were taught. Fred Snr seemed to enjoy pitting his children against each other to try and win any scrap of approval from him and even as grown adults well into their middle years, they seemed to still be trying to win it. If you’re looking for a book that’s primarily about Donald Trump and the presidency, the decisions he’s made and how he’s made them, this one isn’t it. This is about the family, his formative years, the unhealthy emotional environment they seem to have been raised in and the blatant favouritism that Fred Snr developed for Donald and how bankrolling him constantly definitely played into the Trump of now who is incapable of taking responsibility for anything, who insists that “no one has handled the pandemic better than he” or who blames Obama or Hillary for everything. And obviously don’t read this if you’re a fan of Trump. There’s very little in the way of positive things about him, here.


Book #212 of 2020

I read this as part of my participation in the 2020 NonFiction Reader Challenge, hosted by Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out. It’s the 8th book read for the challenge, which means I have 4 more to go. I’m using it to check off the “published in 2020” category.

1. Memoir

2. Disaster Event

3. Social Science

4. Related to an Occupation

5. History

6. Feminism

7. Psychology

8. Medical Issue

9. Nature

10. True Crime

11. Science

12. Published in 2020

7 responses to “Review: Too Much And Never Enough by Mary L. Trump

  1. Ocean Bream says:

    Fascinating review. I have wanted to read this but wasn’t sure it was worth my energy. Your review was so thorough and informative. It’s mad how our formative lives influence later life.

    • Thank you. It’s interested me too, since it was published! There’s a lot of focus on what Mary’s own father experienced, which I guess she has more real knowledge of than Donald’s feelings/experiences growing up but there’s certainly enough of the family background dynamics to give you a pretty good idea. It’s interesting – worth a read just to ponder that nature vs nurture question for sure.

  2. What a fantastic review. The most thorough one I’ve read of this book, instead of just the usual quoted passages! It sounds very insightful and how sad that the family was so dysfunctional and this carried over generations. You do almost feel sorry for him but he had opportunities to learn from that and do differently and chose not to. Thanks for this excellent look at it!

    • Thank you so much! Yes, I almost did feel sorry for him – well I think I did really. It’s not the sort of childhood anyone should have and to think of a 2yo that way is really quite sad. But you’re right – when people reach an age, there’s kind of a choice to make, to be one way or to be another and I think he keeps making very deliberate choices to be a certain way.

  3. Fantastic review. Thanks!

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