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Destiny of the Republic Audiobook

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

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Publisher's Summary

James A. Garfield may have been the most extraordinary man ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back.

But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil. The unhinged assassin’s half-delivered strike shattered the fragile national mood of a country so recently fractured by civil war, and left the wounded president as the object of a bitter behind-the-scenes struggle for power—over his administration, over the nation’s future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. A team of physicians administered shockingly archaic treatments, to disastrous effect. As his con­dition worsened, Garfield received help: Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, worked around the clock to invent a new device capable of finding the bullet.

Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic will stand alongside The Devil in the White City and The Professor and the Madman as a classic of narrative history.

From the Hardcover edition.

©2011 Candice Millard (P)2011 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"[Millard demonstrates] the power of expert storytelling to wonderfully animate even the simplest facts....make[s] for compulsive reading. Superb American history." (Kirkus)

"Splendidly insightful....stands securely at the crossroads of popular and professional history" (Booklist)

“Sparklingly alive…[Millard] brings to life a moment in the nation’s history when access to the president was easy, politics bitter, and medical knowledge slight. Under Millard’s pen, it’s hard to imagine its being better told.” (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Ray B washington, dc 10-27-16
    Ray B washington, dc 10-27-16 Member Since 2014

    regadm

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    "Ignorance is "Bliss""

    While billed as an account of the assassination of President James Garfield and his assassin, I found that the tale of Dr. Willard Bliss to be the most compelling part of the story. Dr. Bliss' total control and role in the care of President Garfield, which appears to have been more fatal to the President than the assassin's bullet.

    Equally of interest is how unguarded and protected our Presidents were, both from physical harm, as well as what has become a the "bubble" of advisors and counselors who maintain a potentially dangerous control over the President.

    A commendable book, which offers much for both history buffs and presidential observers, but particularly compelling insights into how scientific and medical innovations often struggle to gain acceptance.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tracet Hamden, CT, United States 10-26-16
    Tracet Hamden, CT, United States 10-26-16

    Because of Audible's astonishingly bad customer service, I'm no longer a member. This might change when another Aaronovich comes out...

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    "Extraordinary"

    If you look up "delusional" in the dictionary, there's a full–page, full–color picture of Charles Guiteau.

    And if you look up "unfulfilled potential" in my personal dictionary, with this book James Garfield's picture took the place of JFK's.

    President James Garfield is one of those Commanders in Chief no one seems to know much about. By which I mean I never knew much about him, until PBS aired an hour-long documentary about his death, which because of its proximity also took in his entire presidency. (But seriously, the name "Garfield" is almost certainly going to mean "cat" to most people, not "president".) I was so utterly horrified by the story – and fascinated, in a look-how-the-train-wreck-twisted-the-metal way – that I went looking for this book.

    The short version: it's an excellent book about an extraordinary man, and with a first-rate narration. It's a great book. Depressing, horrifying, heart-rending, and often nauseating – but really great.

    Being me, there's a long version.

    I could spend a couple thousand words just on what might have been had Garfield lived and served out a full term, or probably two. He was kind of amazing – how is he so unknown? "Big-hearted and cheerful, Garfield was nearly impossible to resist. Throughout his life, he was just as likely to give a friend, or even a determined enemy, a bear hug as a handshake." He deserves a far greater memorial than an orange cartoon cat. This book is a good beginning.

    A big part of this story is the literally skin–crawling discussion of what anti–antisepsis medical practitioners practiced… Suddenly time travel is even less attractive. Never mind a dearth of antibiotics, Reconstruction-era racial strife, outhouses, and a complete lack of women's (or children's) rights – this exploration of how a bullet wound was treated in a man who held the highest office of the land and could, theoretically, expect the best medical care possible… this was enough to keep me from ever contacting Max and company in Jodi Taylor's St. Mary's series with a view toward tagging along on a trip backward. Whatever I might sometimes feel about the deficits of this day and age, thank you, I'd like to stay here please.

    Because here, and now, no one would need to consider inserting a really bright light bulb into my body to find a bullet. No one would keep feeding me, even after the pattern was established that I would only shortly vomit everything back up (which must have been hellishly painful to the wound on the back, for starters. No one would pour fermented mare's milk down my throat, or inject beef broth into other orifices… No. Every time I start being wistful about the manners and morals and other shiny things about any past age, I'll think of the stubborn insistence of so many medical practitioners that hand-washing wasn't just unnecessary but probably harmful to patients, and … no, really, I'll stay put. (See, the Doctor has the TARDIS. And he's the Doctor. I'll go with him anywhere, anytime.)

    I haven't been fond of Robert Lincoln since reading [book:The Emancipator's Wife]; that book's description of his treatment of his mother – who, I grant you, was a couple of McNuggets shy of a Happy Meal and, shall we say, challenging to deal with – left me fuming and heartsick. Now I learn that after Garfield was shot he rushed out in his carriage and picked up Dr. "Filthyhands" Bliss to come and see to the wounded president; he had tried (unsuccessfully, it may not be entirely fair to remind the reader) to save President Lincoln. Without the ham–handed (filthy–handed) efforts of this exemplar of the medical profession, the consensus is that Garfield might would surely have lived. Even apart from the academic or creepy connection Robert Lincoln had to not one, not two, but three assassinations – nope. I still don't like him.

    So many good, forward–thinking doctors tried so hard to stop Bliss … And were shouted down. Or just ignored.

    And my mind continues to be blown that the Secret Service wasn't officially assigned to protect the president for another twenty years. It's a little shocking that even more incidents didn't occur.

    As I mentioned earlier, I found the story heart-breaking. Garfield's death
    – devastated his family
    – devastated the country
    – cut short what might have been a brilliant presidency
    – cut short what surely would have been a brilliant life

    However, it also
    – forced Chester Arthur to become a better man, and a good president (with a lot of help from Julia Sand
    – brought the country together more than it had been since before the Civil War
    – helped finally quash Roscoe Conkling, who needed quashing so very badly
    – raised real awareness that no, really, germs are real and can be prevented from killing a patient if only certain levels of cleanliness are observed
    – drove Alexander Graham Bell to develop an invention which, while (because of Bliss) it was unable to do a thing for Garfield, would go on to prevent discomfort and even death for thousands

    I find it hard to swallow that Garfield's death might have benefited humanity more than the rest of his life might have … but it might be true.

    One quote I made note of: "...traveling from town to town and asking for votes was considered undignified for a presidential candidate..."

    I weep softly for the wisdom of a lost age.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Yates 10-25-16
    S. Yates 10-25-16 Member Since 2017
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    "Excellent"
    What other book might you compare Destiny of the Republic to and why?

    This book reminded me of some of Erik Larson's best work with a similar knack for using primary sources to tell a story vividly.


    What about Paul Michael’s performance did you like?

    His voice was measured, resonant, and serious. Lovely voice with all the gravitas needed for such a sober tale.


    Any additional comments?

    Excellent history outlining the intertwined stories of James Garfield, his assassin (Charles Guiteau), and the arc of scientific discovery (via Joseph Lister and the push for antiseptic practices, and Alexander Graham Bell and his attempt to build a machine to find the embedded bullet). Millard weaves a wonderful tale, offering a glimpse at President Garfield (a man who it is truly a shame we never got to see as a full term president) and his impoverished childhood, thoughtful intellect, and strong ethics, and also providing a snapshot of the times as we stood on the cusp of modern medicine. Many might well know the story, that Garfield's death was just as much the fault of his well-meaning but inept surgeons and doctors as it was the fault of the bullet. Millard has painstakingly scoured sources to provide a timeline, peppered with Garfield's own writings, and the delusions of his murderer. Entertaining, effecting, and all too short.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David United States 10-19-16
    David United States 10-19-16 Member Since 2012

    Hellicopter Man

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    "Very useful and engaging history"

    This work fills an historical gap in American history I did not even know existed. Its a little too sentimental for my taste at times and I admire River of Doubt as my favorite of the two works I have read by her. However, this is the more important history work.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas C. Hilton Jacksonville, Fl 09-30-16
    Thomas C. Hilton Jacksonville, Fl 09-30-16 Member Since 2009

    funnyguy

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    "Better than expected."

    I can't remember why I bought this book. Not sure I even knew that Garfield was a president! This is a great book, and a great narration of the same.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tally D Lykins North Vernon, IN United States 09-08-16
    Tally D Lykins North Vernon, IN United States 09-08-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Good book about a little known event."
    What made the experience of listening to Destiny of the Republic the most enjoyable?

    Learning about an event I knew little about.


    What other book might you compare Destiny of the Republic to and why?

    Not sure.


    What does Paul Michael bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He did a good job.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No.


    Any additional comments?

    I gained a lot of respect for both Garfield and Bell; men of integrity.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan 08-30-16
    Dan 08-30-16
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    "Excellent in all aspects"

    I'm not usually one to read historical books, in fact I typically go for scientific ones. However, this book is extraordinary. The story alone is endlessly interesting and Millard's account of it puts it in the most riveting of forms. Exhaustively researched and well formatted. Moreover, Paul Michael's performance is unparalleled. The best performance of an audible book I've listened to so far.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    1st time reviewer 08-24-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Distracting Narrator"

    The story itself was fantastic. It was enough to keep me listening despite the very distracting narration. Why on earth do men think they need to put on a high pitched voice to depict women? And the voices used for Garfield, Gateaux, and Bliss were equally distracting and unnecessary for the story telling. The narrator himself had a wonderful voice, but his insistence on creating character voices took away from the enjoyment of the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Maher 08-11-16
    Lisa Maher 08-11-16 Member Since 2017
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    "Full of suspense, drama and American history"

    This is an excellent book for anyone who would like to know more about this little-known President, James Garfield. History aficionados and those who love the suspense of a dramatic novel will enjoy this book. The book reveals much about Garfield's private life, including his marriage, infidelity, parenthood and his aversion to seeking The White House. Haunting parallels are revealed between the assassination of President Lincoln and Garfield. Some scenes are filled with sorrow and suffering; others describe the gruesome details of Garfield's wounds, and others reveal the patriotic fervor that enveloped the national after Garfield was shot in 1881.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary 08-04-16
    Gary 08-04-16
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    "Absolutely magnificent"

    Portrayals and capturing the times, it gives a portrait of one of the greatest men in American history- that schools never speak of. A man who's measure is needed now more than ever.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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