Monday, April 15, 2013

Destiny of the Republic

What do you know about Garfield? I have to admit I didn't know much about James A. Garfield - scholar, Civil War hero, president of the United States. Garfield usually appears only as a brief entry in the history books. President for only a few short months, he was assassinated in 1881 by Charles Guiteau. In Destiny of the Republic: a tale of madness, medicine, and the murder of a president, Candice Millard does an excellent job of fleshing out the life of Garfield and state of the nation in the early 1880's.

The plot unfolds like a mystery with three threads weaving through the book. First, the story of Garfield. Then the life of the insane assassin, Charles Guiteau. And lastly, Alexander Graham Bell...wait...who? I couldn't imagine how Bell would fit in to the story, but I knew the characters would eventually cross paths in the future, just like in a well plotted murder mystery. It was fascinating to learn about the state of medicine in the 19th century and how germs and infection could be just as dangerous as a bullet.

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