Cover image for Mrs. Paine's garage and the murder of John F. Kennedy
Mrs. Paine's garage and the murder of John F. Kennedy
Mallon, Thomas, 1951-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Pantheon Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
xi, 211 pages ; 22 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E842.9 .M279 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E842.9 .M279 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E842.9 .M279 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Nearly forty years have passed since Ruth Hyde Paine, a Quaker housewife in suburban Dallas, offered shelter and assistance to a young man named Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian wife, Marina. For nine months in 1963, Mrs. Paine was so deeply involved in the Oswalds' lives that she eventually became one of the Warren Com- mission's most important witnesses. Mrs. Paine's Garageis the tragic story of a well-intentioned woman who found Oswald the job that put him six floors above Dealey Plaza--into which, on November 22, he fired a rifle he'd kept hidden inside Mrs. Paine's house. But this is also a tale of survival and resiliency: the story of a devout, open-hearted woman who weathered a whirlwind of investigation, suspicion, and betrayal, and who refused to allow her enmeshment in the calamity of that November to crush her own life. Thomas Mallon gives us a disturbing account of generosity and secrets, of suppressed memories and tragic might-have-beens, of coincidences more eerie than conspiracy theory. His book is unlike any other work that has been published on the murder of President Kennedy.

Author Notes

Thomas Mallon, author of "In Fact", is a frequent contributor to many magazines & journals. His column, "Doubting Thomas" ran for six years in GQ. His novels Dewey Defeats Truman & Henry & Clara were New York Times Notable Books. A recipient of Guggenheim & Rockefeller fellowships, he lives in Westport, Connecticut.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The individual's place in American history intrigues Mallon, a stimulating and versatile writer whose work includes the novel Two Moons (2000) and the essay collection In Fact [BKL Ja 1 & 15 01]. Here in a narrative as remarkable for its subtlety as for its vigor, he sheds new light on the world's most manically studied assassination, that of John F. Kennedy, by concentrating on Ruth Paine, the woman who opened her heart and home to Lee Harvey Oswald, his Russian wife, Marina, and their young children. A Quaker, a seeker, a mother, and a wife ensnared in a passionless marriage, Paine, forthright, innocent, and immeasurably kind, became attached to deceitful Marina and helped the feckless Lee get a job at the Texas School Book Depository. How did she cope with the relentless investigation, and how has she lived with the knowledge that she inadvertently played a role in one of the nation's defining tragedies? With Paine's generous input, Mallon judiciously, meticulously, and increasingly dramatically reconstructs the entire unnerving scenario, drawing startling conclusions about our deeply conflicted feelings regarding goodness and unveiling a web of long-suppressed memories and improbable coincidences that prove the old adage: truth is stranger than fiction. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

In his fiction, Mallon (Henry and Clara, etc.) has looked at history's accidental tourists, ordinary citizens thrust by happenstance into the swirl of cataclysmic events. This time around, he turns a journalistic eye toward a central surviving figure in the Kennedy assassination. In 1963, Ruth Paine, now in her late 60s, was a recently separated housewife hoping to improve her Russian. As a result, she offered to shelter a Russian woman, Marina Oswald, her children while her husband, Lee Harvey, sought work. In the end, Paine, a committed Quaker, unwittingly provided Oswald a sniper's nest she helped him find employment at the Texas School Book Depository and storage space, her garage, for arguably the 20th-century's most infamous murder weapon. The views on her association with the Oswalds have run the gamut, from nave do-gooder to CIA conspirator. Here we meet up with some old faces, seen now through Paine's eyes, such as Jim Garrison, the overzealous New Orleans district attorney determined to uncover a conspiracy. Mallon follows the strange trajectory of Paine's well-intentioned life, from her first meeting with the Oswalds to her voluminous testimony before the Warren Commission to her pursuit of an estranged Marina following the events. Mallon also generates a variety of delicious "what-if" scenarios and "small-world" coincidences. There are a few brambles to hack through at the outset, awkward chronological zigzags and family histories that are tedious in spots. But these patches are soon smoothed out. While not a heavy-hitting historical tome, this may introduce some fresh air on the vast storehouse of Kennedy works. Ruth Paine's is ultimately a human story, the tale of one woman living in America. (Jan. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

For all the paper tonnage inspired by the murder of John F. Kennedy, it has also produced a small shelf of timeless literary journalism. To Garry Wills and Ovid Demaris's profile Jack Ruby and Jean Stafford's eccentric dialog with Marguerite Oswald, A Mother in History, Mallon adds this portrait of witness Ruth Paine and a life admirably lived in the face of national tragedy. The Oswalds shared Mrs. Paine's house during the months prior to November 22, 1963, when Lee left quietly for work with the rifle he'd secretly kept in the Paines' garage. Most of the too-familiar events in Dealey Plaza gratefully occur offstage in Mallon's telling; his concern is more with Ruth Paine's life with the Oswalds before the assassination and her determination to preserve her life whole in the years after, when so many of the tragedy's other surviving principals became household names in the conspiracy debate. In addition to showing us this Quaker woman's successful struggle, Mallon (Dewey Defeats Truman; Henry and Clara) surveys the culture and "unfinished" national grieving of the Kennedy assassination, contrasting Ruth's earnest diaries and good works with the shrilly sinister online speculations about the Paines made by conspiracists. A first-rate attempt to demystify and bring light to a corner of the assassination story through the humanizing arc of one person's life. [For an interview with Mallon, see p. 146. Ed.] Nathan Ward, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Part 1 November 21, 1963p. 1
Part 2 November 22, 1963p. 51
Part 3 Historyp. 93
Part 4 Relicsp. 163
Appendixp. 211