Destiny of the Republic

  • by Candice Millard
  • Narrated by Paul Michael
  • 9 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil. 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 con­dition 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.

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What the Critics Say

"[Millard demonstrates] the power of expert storytelling to wonderfully animate even the simplest facts....make[s] for compulsive reading. Superb American history." (Kirkus)
"Splendidly insightful....stands securely at the crossroads of popular and professional history" (Booklist)
“Sparklingly alive…[Millard] brings to life a moment in the nation’s history when access to the president was easy, politics bitter, and medical knowledge slight. Under Millard’s pen, it’s hard to imagine its being better told.” (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Marvelous, Magnificent, Millard

I love to be blown away by a book!! I love that rare ocassion when you randomly pick up a book and hope it will at least hold your interest just until something else comes along, to listen half-heartedly, then--be drawn in thoroughly, completely--to the point where you forget everything around you and become so engrossed in the story that the house could be burning down around you and you wouldn't notice till your toes got hot!

In the case of Destiny of the Republic, it isn't the history of 20th president James Garfield alone that catapults this book into the category of toe-toasting "amazing"...it is the meticulous research and straightforward writing of former National Geographic writer and editor, Candice Millard--a truly great historian/author (and we could probably add detective). A book about Garfield would never have been tops on my Wish List, but I'd read Millard's first book, River of Doubt, (about Theodore Roosevelt's trip on the Amazon) and found it fascinating. Based on that read, I figured I had a winner. Now I have to say, Destiny of the Republic is even better, and I have a new picture of Garfield and wonder what might have been.

The book establishes the dignified character of Garfield, the high esteem the people had for him, his erudition, and his humanity. It goes into detail about the schizo plottings of the crazed assassin, Guiteau (and some fascinating history of the "insanity plea"). But, it focuses largely on the 79 day period while Garfield, Guiteau's led bullet lodged somewhere deep in his back, suffered at the hands of the woefully arrogant Dr. D. Willard Bliss, and the dedicated Alexander Graham Bell's fervent race against time to perfect his "induction balance machine" in hopes of locating the bullet and saving Garfield from Dr. Bliss, and therefore, Garfield's life. The details of the dreadful and ridiculously archaic treatments Garfield suffered through at the hands of the ignorant Bliss, and the account of the autopsy, are painful to read about and shed light on the great progress medicine has made. At his trial for the murder of Garfield, Guiteau nonchalantly admitted to shooting Garfield, but insisted that he did not kill Garfield, rather it was "malpractice killed Garfield."

A slower first half, but you'll be rewarded with a mesmerizing tale, some fascinating medical history and facts, all wonderfully narrated by Paul Michael. *If Candice Millard wrote the history books for school--the students would never miss a day. Fantastic read I highly recommend to history buffs and non-history buffs alike.




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- Mel

One of my all time favorite nonfiction books!

I was first introduced to Mr. Garfield through a song recorded by Johnny Cash entitled, "Mister Garfield." As it turns out, the song is even greater after I read this book.

This book is very well written and moves quickly. The author provides clear but only necessary details. You will not get bored with this book. There is plenty to offer for people with a wide variety of interests. First, you are offered a patriotic recount of the history of this president along with the political landscape of the later 19th century. If murder, insanity, and crime peaks your interest, there is plenty of that. Maybe you're interested in medicine, sickness, surgery, and suffering...it's all here. Or, if you're like me and have an interest in technology, you will not be disappointed. Alexander Bell plays a large roll in this book.

I think the reader is excellent and did a great performance.

The only downfall to this book is the lack of actual presidential duties and orders Mr. Garfield certainly had to make while he was "recovering." There isn't so much of a hint as to anything he actually did regarding policy after he was shot.

Overall I gave this book five stars. Highly recommended.
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- Tony H.

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-20-2011
  • Publisher: Random House Audio