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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.
64 of 65 people found this review helpful
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.
29 of 29 people found this review helpful