Gloria Vanderbilt grew up with every financial advantage a child in the early 20th century could want. Yet she didn’t have loving parents—one was dead and the other distant. Perhaps, as a result, having a close relationship with her youngest son, Anderson Cooper, mattered deeply to her. In The Rainbow Comes and Goes, the pair pull back the curtain and let readers into their email correspondence for a year, late in Vanderbilt’s life.

The subtitle is telling: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss. They discuss each other, their respective childhoods, and what matters most to them both. It’s a combination of intimate thoughts and family history. And the title references a phrase Vanderbilt repeats often. It’s also an illustration of their divergent attitudes about life. One of the authors plans for the day the rainbow goes. The other focuses on the rainbow coming soon, whether we see it today or not.

These memories and conversations are also a tribute to New York City, as mother and son both spent formative childhood years there. It’s their chosen hometown and the setting for most of the book.

My conclusions

Vanderbilt and Cooper likely edited the correspondence that makes up this book. Still, I appreciated their openness and vulnerability. Several beloved family members died way too young, so their sense of loss is considerable.

At the same time, the book is balanced by interesting stories from Vanderbilt about Hollywood figures and New York celebrities. She dishes various details while staying respectful of those people. And she does look back on her own choices, especially business and money choices, with a reasonably objective eye. Both authors discuss what the ups and downs of her business fortunes meant to them. Despite family financial connections, they share a sense of ambition and desire to make their own way in the world.

Listen to this one on audio since the authors read it. It’s more meaningful with their inflections and emphases. Vanderbilt spent some time in the theater, so she knows how to tell a good tale. And of course, Cooper draws on skills he uses during his nightly gig on CNN.

All in all, this is an interesting and unexpectedly insightful celebrity memoir. If you like that genre, it’s worth a listen.

Pair with a more dysfunctional family memoir, like Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man  by Mary Trump, Ph.D