A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a PresidentBy Candice Millard
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 powerover 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.
"Starred Review. Moving set pieces...and sharply etched sketches of Blaine, the overwhelmed Arthur and larger portraits of the truly impressive Garfield and the thoroughly insane Guiteau make for compulsive reading. Superb American history." - Kirkus
"His death didn't greatly harm the nation, and Millard's story doesn't add much to previous understanding, but it's hard to imagine its being better told." - Publishers Weekly
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Rated of 5
Destiny of the Republic
Admittedly, before this book, I was not much of a reader. The flow of her prose and sheer coincidence of events during this period of history rekindled my interest in reading. Since then I have read her "River of Doubt" and other similar non-fiction books. This book certainly tops my short list of great reading.
Rated of 5
Garfield - who knew?
Excellent book and even with the extensive research the author did, it still read like a novel, and not a history book. Interesting to read it in an Election year and to see how far we've come, or not come as the case may be.
Garfield was a fascinating character and would have had an interesting Presidency had he been able to serve his entire term. Yet, maybe his legacy was to turn the world's attention to the field of medicine.
Looking forward to hearing Candice Millard speak locally about this book and will certainly read other books by her.
Candice Millard is the New York Times bestselling author of The River of Doubt. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and children.
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