Jennie: James Garfield

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

I might not have mentioned it here, but my husband is a firefighter / paramedic. So, the medical field has been a big part of my life since I helped him study for medic school tests years ago. Our dinner table conversations aren’t for the faint of heart. We both love reading books about the sordid beginnings of the medical field, which basically means that I read half of this book out loud to him as I was reading it.

This is a presidential biography mixed with a window into early scientific inventions and the medical world, with true-crime. So…there was pretty much no doubt that I was going to love it…and I did! The multiple parts and stories were woven so delicately and beautifully that I just flipped page after page in a race to find out more. Clearly, I knew Garfield would die, but that didn’t slow down my intensity as I read.

Seriously, this has been one of my favorite biographies that I’ve read as part of the Presidential Challenge, but for slightly different reasons than the others in the past. My other faves were due to the depth of information and the fascinating storytelling, this book made that list because of the many ways the President might have lived. If Garfield’s main doctor hadn’t been so hardheaded, if Bell’s invention had worked just a few days earlier, if his murderer hadn’t been so crazy pants.

Fascinating stuff, for sure. I highly recommend this book, even if you don’t traditionally enjoy non-fiction!


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