Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
You may not start this book with interest in the 1880 Republican Convention and the choosing of their presidential candidate, but as soon as you begin it's sure to spark an interest. Author Candice Millard makes the bygone political event thrilling, and the excellent narrator of the audiobook gives voice to the feeling.
James A. Garfield is chosen as the nominee in an upset. Most people assumed Ulysses S. Grant would be nominated once again, including several very powerful political figures of the day. It's for this reason that Garfield begins his term as president with plenty of enemies, and they make it their mission to block his every move. It seems that presidential politics was a difficult game even 132 years ago.
The book describes Garfield's development from inquisitive child to exemplary, and humble, adult. He undergoes an unlikely, meteoric rise to political prominence only to be cut down by a megalomaniac assassin and certain unfortunate medical practices of the time. (Few doctors of the time followed antiseptic procedures. Because who believes in "germs" anyway?)
Alongside this main story we get chapters on medical science of the day, the quarreling among Garfield's physicians, Alexander Graham Bell's attempts to find the bullet lodged in the President's back, and the bizarre life story of the self-aggrandizing assassin Charles J. Guiteau.
All in all an engaging exploration into one of our nation's tragedies.
Review by Danny Hanbery