Jenna and Barbara Bush’s ‘Sisters First’

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Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush. Photo by Nathan R. Congleton.

Depending on your age, you might remember Jenna and Barbara Bush as former President George H.W. Bush’s precocious granddaughters. Or perhaps you may always see them as former President George W. Bush’s spunky, wild twin daughters. If you were born in this millennium, you may know them as a successful “Today Show” anchor (and mom of two) and a global health network CEO.

Their new book, “Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life,” published Oct. 24, takes readers on a journey through their lives, giving glimpses into their childhood in Texas all the way to the birth of Jenna’s first child. The brief read opens with a foreword by the girls’ mother, former first lady Laura Bush. It prepares you for the journey ahead, a journey many families will both appreciate and relate to.

Jenna and Barbara were inspired to write their memoir celebrating all things sisterhood on Nov. 9, 2016 — the day after the 2016 presidential election. They were comforting themselves over the results and glad they had each other. They began to think about how grateful they were they had each other not only in that moment, but all the other moments of their lives. And so, “Sisters First” was born.

The tales are not exactly in chronological order, but read more like a 236-page casual conversation over a glass of wine. The chapters mostly alternate being written by Barbara and Jenna. They’ll make you laugh, talking about Jenna’s overactive imagination, or cry while learning about the girls’ paternal grandfather’s devastating Alzheimer’s.

For anyone who has a sister (or a woman in their life like a sister), this book is a must-read. While sleeping at the White House one night, Jenna heard ghosts and ran to sleep with Barbara. The two helped each other get through that night, much like sisters who have nightmares growing up and sleep in each other’s beds. Later, the two slept in the same bed the night before Jenna’s wedding. While reading the book, it was often hard to remember the girls were former “first children” and not just 30- somethings with really fun stories.

Two chapters particularly stood out. One, by Jenna, was called “More than Tongue Can Tell.” It focused on her grandfather George H.W. Bush, nicknamed “Gampy.” Readers will be guaranteed to shed more than one tear over the heartfelt tribute to the now 93-year-old. Jenna even named her younger daughter Poppy after her Gampy, as that was his nickname growing up.

The other chapter that stuck with me after the book was completed was penned by Barbara. “The Mythology of Love” talks about how she constantly gets asks why she isn’t married, the love stories of her parents and grandparents and how she got through a particularly bad heartbreak — with the help of her dad, “Popsicle.” It was almost comforting to finish the chapter, reading Barbara’s words about how everyone is born to be someone’s love story in some way or another.

“Sisters First” is a light and happy read, a welcome distraction from the chaotic world we live in these days. It’s a great idea to give the women in your life as a holiday gift. It may even have you waxing nostalgic about “the good old days,” when these two women were just those college students and daughters of our president.

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