The Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President

Candice Millard. Doubleday, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-385-52626-5
This rendering of an oft-told tale brings to life a moment in the nation's history when access to the president was easy, politics bitter, and medical knowledge slight. James A. Garfield, little recalled today, gained the Republican nomination for president in 1880 as a dark-horse candidate and won. Then, breaking free of the sulfurous factional politics of his party, he governed honorably, if briefly, until shot by an aggrieved office seeker. Under Millard's (The River of Doubt) pen, Garfield's deranged assassin, his incompetent doctors (who, for example, ignored antisepsis, leading to a blood infection), and the bitter politics of the Republican Party come sparklingly alive through deft characterizations. Even Alexander Graham Bell, who hoped that one of his inventions might save the president's life, plays a role. Millard also lays the groundwork for a case that, had Garfield lived, he would have proved an effective and respected chief executive. Today, he would surely have survived, probably little harmed by the bullet that lodged in him, but unimpeded infection took his life. 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. Illus. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/11/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 8 pages - 978-0-307-93965-4
Paperback - 623 pages - 978-1-59413-614-6
Paperback - 432 pages
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-61657-787-2
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-93968-5
Hardcover - 625 pages - 978-1-4104-4625-1
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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