What a fascinating story. I figured it would be, I mean it’s about the guy who made McDonald’s what it is today and his wife who gave away billions of dollars, but I was still surprised at just how fascinating it was.
When Dutton reached out to me about a copy of the book* I jumped at the chance because not only do I find philanthropy personally fascinating, but I also work in fundraising, so it was a win-win either way for me.
I mean the subtitle “The man who made the McDonald’s fortune and the woman who gave it all away,” caught my attention pretty quick because I knew nothing about the founding of McDonald’s or the people behind it. I had no idea about most of it.
The book was well written and researched. For some reason I got it into my head that the book was about Joan and not so much Ray, so it was a bit of a disappointment there wasn’t more of an emphasis on her story. This being said, Napoli did a really good job of weaving the two biographies together along with the many other key players in their lives and in the founding of McDonald’s.
She also did a great job of writing about the changing face of America during the proliferation of fast food. It’s hard to imagine a time without dozens of fast food restaurants to choose from, but Napoli provided such a great setting and description of the changes McDonald’s (and others) pioneered and ultimately exported around the world.
There were two things I felt that were missing. I wish Napoli would’ve spent more time talking about the corporate philanthropy of McDonald’s. I’m sure she didn’t have unrestricted access, but it would’ve still been nice to have a chapter focusing on the Ronald McDonald houses among other things. I know it wasn’t a direct result of Ray and Joan, but it definitely is one of those iconic philanthropic partnerships up there with Red Cross and Make a Wish.
The other thing I felt missing, which apparently a lot of people docked stars on Goodreads for, [Insert comment about idiocy on Goodreads.], were photos. For such vivacious individuals with such passionate lives I felt there could definitely have been photos to add to the wonderful narrative Napoli created. I wouldn’t dock stars for that though!
Recommendation: This was a very interesting read and surprisingly quick for a biography. I really enjoyed the philanthropic aspect of Joan’s post-Ray life. I find it very interesting that Napoli shed more light on the history of McDonald’s prior to Ray Kroc’s ascension that McDonald’s (Corporate website) barely warrants a sentence about on their “About Us” page. Kroc (Ray) clearly did a good job of indoctrinating the corporation about who to whom they owed their debt of gratitude.
*I received a copy of this from the publisher in return for an honest response. No goods or money were exchanged.
Opening Line: “Even before she married Ray Kroc, Joan learned it was possible to outsource bad news.”
Closing Line: “Joan could never have imagined that night she met Ray in St. Paul just how big her life would become, or how many lives she’d touch—all because of the race to sell fast food.” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction.)