The Last American Hero: The Remarkable Life of John Glenn

Alice L. George. Chicago Review, $30 (368p) ISBN 978-1-64160-213-6
Historian George (The Cuban Missile Crisis: The Threshold of Nuclear War) presents an overly hagiographic biography of John Glenn (1921–2016) that fails to illuminate his life as the first American to orbit the Earth. George starts with Glenn and his future wife meeting as children, and proceeds to show Glenn growing into a patriotic young man whose Presbyterian upbringing left him unprepared for the “rampant swearing and lascivious comments” he encountered at a WWII-era training camp for Naval aviators. In Korea, Glenn’s recklessness in combat raised concerns, but George assures readers that “Glenn was not a cowboy simply looking for a wild ride. He believed in the Korean War.” George spends more time on press reactions to Glenn’s time in space than his historic ride, writing, “he made Americans feel proud, honorable, invincible, united.” George’s flat, résumé-like approach continues through Glenn’s subsequent career as a four-term U.S. senator from Ohio and unsuccessful 1984 run for Democratic presidential candidate. Those looking for comforting memories of the space race’s halcyon days as a balm for polarizing times will be rewarded; everyone else should read (or reread) The Right Stuff. Agent: Roger Williams, Roger Williams Agency. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 09/10/2020
Release date: 11/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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