Kathleen Buhle’s retelling of her marriage, and divorce, with Hunter Biden — the president’s son — steers clear of politics in the would-be presidential family to instead focus on personal reflections.
“The process of writing the book was incredibly cathartic,” Buhle told “Good Morning America” Tuesday, ahead of her book’s release.
Buhle married Biden, who has been the target of conservative media for his financial dealings, in 1993, and divorced him in 2017. Though she described her marriage to as Biden as “special,” Buhle frequently grappled with not feeling like a “real Biden” within the larger family.
Here are the top takeaways from Buhle’s new memoir, titled “If We Break: A Memoir of Marriage, Addiction, and Healing.”
‘Biden blood only’
Buhle described a friendly relationship with Joe Biden, writing that he “introduced me as his daughter everywhere we went” and that the would-be president was the “the sun around which we all revolved,” according to excerpts published in Guardian.
She wrote that when they first met, the future president said: “Honey, my boy tells me he loves you, so that means I love you too. Understand? I love you.”
Still, interactions with the family frequently “triggered” her fears of being left out from the bigger group. She recalled a memory from early on in their marriage when taking family photos, a relative announced, “Now, let’s do Biden blood only.”
The family’s Secret Service detail, in particular, was “one frequent reminder I wasn’t a true Biden,” she wrote.
Before the senior Biden was inaugurated as vice president in January 2009, she recalled a Secret Service agent sitting her down with a big black binder to explain their family’s new detail. He said that Hunter and her three daughters would each have “two agents with them 24 hours a day,” while she would have none, according to the memoir.
“Suddenly I felt embarrassed,” she wrote. “Did this mean I was less important than my husband and my kids?”
Biden’s finances often take center stage in conservative media coverage, but Buhle said she had little to add to the conversation, writing that she left Biden to deal with their finances alone, according to excerpts of the book in Vanity Fair.
“It’s embarrassing to say that I ceded all financial control to my husband, and kept my head buried in the sand,” she told ABC in an interview. “I liked the nice things, and I didn’t want to think about the cost at which they were coming.”
In the book, she said she began to understand the extent of their financial woes once she initiated their divorce in 2016. She found they had no savings, double mortgage and no equity in their two homes, credit card debt and medical bills.
“The sheer amount of our debt overwhelmed me,” she wrote. “We were underwater.”
She didn’t blame Biden for the lack of stability, though, instead pointing the finger at herself for “willful ignorance” of their financial standing.
Buhle started to notice Biden’s substance abuse problem “spiral from social to problematic” about eight years into their marriage, according to People’s excerpts of the book.
She recalled one early instance where, while making pancakes, a sleepless Biden came into the kitchen at 10 a.m. to grab a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.
“I don’t think he knew what time it was, and he still seemed drunk,” she wrote. “He laughed and put the bottle back.”
She described a number of stints Biden spent in rehab, including in November 2012 after he showed up drunk to a fundraising event following the reelection of his father and President Barack Obama.
After Biden’s brother, Beau, died of brain cancer in May 2015, he began spending much of his time at the home of Beau’s widow, Hallie, according to People’s excerpts of the book.
More than a year later, in November 2016, Buhle received “the kind of call that tightens every parent’s chest” from her middle daughter, Finnegan, who was with their family therapist.
Buhle met with Finnegan and the family therapist, and her oldest daughter, Naomi, was on speakerphone. The two girls asked the family therapist to break news of the affair between her husband and his brother’s widow. Biden and Hallie split in 2019.
After she was told, all Buhle said was “Oh my God,” questioning how the girls found out. They had discovered text messages on Biden’s phone between the two, according to the book.
“I felt a strange vindication,” Buhle wrote. “Not only had I not been crazy, but it was so much worse than I could have imagined. I was shocked, but not heartbroken. Heartbreak had already flattened my self-esteem that past year.”
Reclaiming her name
Buhle wrote that the Biden name was a “crown and shield,” and described the difficulty she had giving it up in 2019.
“Changing my name had been as frightening as anything I’d ever done before,” she wrote. “I was no longer a Biden. I’d handed in my crown and shield because I no longer needed them. Maybe I never had.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hunter Biden’s ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, details marriage in memoir