James A. Garfield may have been the most extraordinary man ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months ...
James A. Garfield may have been the most extraordinary man ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back. But the shot didn't kill Garfield. The drama of what hap-pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur-moil. The unhinged assassin's half-delivered strike shattered the fragile national mood of a country so recently fractured by civil war, and left the wounded president as the object of a bitter behind-the-scenes struggle for power--over his administration, over the nation's future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. A team of physicians administered shockingly archaic treatments, to disastrous effect. As his con-dition worsened, Garfield received help: Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, worked around the clock to invent a new device capable of finding the bullet. Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, "The Destiny of the Republic" will stand alongside "The Devil in the White City" and "The Professor and the Madman" as a classic of narrative history. "From the Hardcover edition."
The period is 1880, the genre is history, told by juxtaposing good and evil - James Garfield's rise to become President is the good, and the decline of his assassin from madness to murder is the bad. The narrative does illuminate a somewhat obscure period, and it is populated with well-known and unknown figures of that era, some of whom had or went on to play other roles in American history. The presentation of Garfield as an extraordinary man struck down just as he was beginning undertake a heroic presidency is convincing. That he ultimately was the victim of his doctor's ignorance, rather than his (would-be) assassin's bullet is made apparent.
The book gets 3 stars because it is a good "tale" of facts arranged in an organized narrative. It does not get 5 stars because it fails to convey "destiny" through depth of insight into character and times.
Mar 29, 2012
This is a good book about many areas of American History. Yet, it is disturbing in many ways. I wish the Author, who is great, would have told us more about Garfield as a Minister in the Christian Church/Church of Christ. He had a great empact on that movement and is, even though like all of us he sinned, is still held in high reguard by those of the Restoration Movement.
This book is a must read for anyone who is interest in American History.
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