Beautiful Things by Hunter Biden

A heartwarming and compelling memoir written by the son of the 46th President of the United States.

Hunter Biden holds nothing back in his personal memoir when talking about the tragic loss of his biological mother, sister, and his closest friend and brother, Beau to glioblastoma, an aggressive type of cancer that occurred in his brain. 

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

It’s apparent in the first few chapters of Beautiful Things just how much love and how strong and inseparable of a relationship that BeauandHunt, as they were often referred to, had for one another. An unbreakable bond until Beau’s passing in 2015.

Courtesy of APP Getty

Losing one family member is tough enough, but to lose his mother and sister in a tragic car accident, an incident that he says remains buried in his subconscious yet to be processed, and then to lose a brother and best friend to a devastating form of brain cancer, is crippling. 

Although home was Delaware, when they were growing up, the boys had the chance to spend some unique and exciting times together in Washington at the Capitol. Often left to their own devices, they would roam the halls, bumping into various senators, ordering BLTs and grilled cheese sandwiches at the Senate cafeteria, and enjoying private tours of astronaut and politician John Glenn’s office. 

These boys were raised to work in politics. It was in their DNA, and when they weren’t in traditional schooling, they were receiving a different kind of education at home over the dinner table, being kept up to date on day to day politics by their father, something they both loved. 

Joe, Jill, Hunter, and Beau (Courtesy of Sen. Biden's office)

Although both the sons of a Senator, these boys knew good work ethic, both working hard in various physical and administrative roles as soon as they became of legal working age. 

Dad Joe also taught the boys the risks of alcohol, he himself avoiding it, having seen his relatives struggle with addiction and seen it as a problem looming large within the family. Joe made a choice not to be seduced by the bottle and encouraged his son’s to follow in his footsteps. 

Beau followed suit, Hunter did not. 

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Seemingly, the more pressures Hunter added to his already demanding life, the more he started to drink to compensate. 

He talks in detail about addiction, “that you need to be as dedicated to sobriety as you were to drinking”, and that despite seven years of not engaging in his alcoholism, how it’s so simple to fall deep into the rabbit hole again without much thought. Perhaps one or two drinks, and before you know it, you’re off to the races, and back in the grips of addiction again. 

As Hunter states, he “allowed one moment, and all the underlying anger and confusion, to give me the excuse to drink again”, as with addiction, an addict is always gripping for the one thing that allows them to give in and give up, sometimes feeling hopeful, and other times feeling hopeless. Hunter saw this as return to his addiction as instantaneous, impulsive, inevitable.

Beautiful Things also touches on the incredible and impactful humanitarian work that Hunter has carried out thus far, even throughout the worst of his battles with addiction, like when he considered himself a "functioning addict", travelling to the Middle East with the World Food Program, visiting refugee camps where he campaigned for more funding, assistance, and the transferring of refugees to a safer place. Through his work at the WFP he helped increase funding 60% in 5 years - to more than $2 billion. This is just a fraction of the humanitarian work he has carried out throughout the span of his career. 

Courtesy of Silke Buhr / WFP

All in, this book is part love letter to Beau Biden, part memoir on Hunter’s addiction. I appreciate how open he is about the full extend of his addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine, being truly open and realistic with the reader, sharing every detail, which for anyone who has ever struggled with addiction, or has known anyone who has, this book may be a revelation, to know that even the privileged son of our US President has been right where someone in our life may be right at this moment. Addiction is not reserved for any particular person, it can affect each and every one of us. Hunter states at one point “if you’re numbing yourself against acute feelings of emptiness or trauma or self-loathing, those feelings will double in intensity as each high tails off”, reminding us of addiction’s most self-defeating algorithm as he refers to it  

There’s one consistent message throughout Beautiful Things, and that’s the power of love, and how there’s no love stronger than the love within a family affected by trauma. As Hunter states at one point “trauma gave us the gift of each other”. The love and unbreakable bond within the Biden family comes across as beautiful, strong, and authentic. The prose is readable and succinct. I highly recommend this book. 

Beautiful Things is available at Indigo, and at most other booksellers

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