Apr 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

First look: Valerie Biden Owens' memoir

Cover: Celadon Books

"I remember his eyes. I wish I didn’t," Valerie Biden Owens writes in a new memoir, "Growing Up Biden," describing the moment when her brother — Joe Biden, barely 30 and just elected to the U.S. Senate — understood that his wife and baby daughter had been killed in a car accident.

Why it matters: No one knows President Biden better than his sister, his closest lifelong confidant, supporter and adviser. Her book, out Tuesday, is her story — but it's chockablock with new insights about her big brother.

Details: An excerpt provided to Axios details the night Biden's first wife, Neilia, and daughter, Naomi, died.

  • "Memories of that night are buried deep within each of us like pieces of shrapnel that stopped just shy of killing us but are impossible to extract," Owens writes.

She describes Biden being sworn in as a senator at a hospital in Wilmington, as his sons Hunter and Beau were still recovering.

  • "Watching him, I struggled with a confused, displaced sense of pride: my brother, the Senator, assuming his role amid ruins. The whole scene felt like a ghoulish parody of our dreams and ambitions."
  • Valerie and her brother Jimmy — with help from a few senators — intervened so that Joe Biden wouldn't quit. She decided to move in to care for the boys as long as needed.

In one colorful scene two days before Christmas, a department store clerk resists selling Jimmy a decorated artificial tree out of the store's display window. "I want that tree. And I’m buying the f**king tree," Jimmy insisted.

  • He prevailed, and hauled the tree to the boys' hospital room.
  • It was "the only source of light at that time," the book says.
  • Owens describes driving toddler Hunter home from the hospital, unable to find words to make him secure. "He slept with me in the bed, the two of us curled around each other like little animals," she writes. "Shattered into many pieces, the Bidens began to pull together and assemble into a new shape."

Valerie Biden Owens is represented by Keith Urbahn and Matt Latimer of Javelin.

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