cover image Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times

Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times

Kenneth Whyte. Knopf, $35 (736p) ISBN 978-0-307-59796-0

Canadian journalist Whyte (The Uncrowned King) delivers a clear-eyed, sympathetic portrayal of the American president best remembered for his inability to pull the U.S. out of the Great Depression. Whyte considers this limited view unfair; after all, Hoover lived for 90 years and occupied the White House for only four. Therefore, to make sense of this “man of the times” requires an examination of his entire life. Raised a Quaker, Hoover rejected the sect’s faith component but embraced its ethics of hard work, sense of duty to neighbors and community, and concern for the troubles of others. Yet in pursuit of a successful livelihood and upward social mobility, he sometimes skirted the boundaries of fairness and honesty. Whyte doesn’t shy away from these seedier aspects of Hoover’s life, but nor is he judgmental. The story moves at a brisk pace, through the early years of Hoover’s climb in the business world to his first taste of public service with humanitarian work during WWI to his career with the federal government, including the presidency. With adept explanations of the Depression’s complexities and a refreshing sense of objectivity regarding Hoover’s approach to combatting it, Whyte portrays a figure to be neither pitied nor reviled, but better understood. Photos. [em]Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Oct.) [/em]