An elegant, affecting work that offers fresh insights on a much-mythologized president.

HIS FINAL BATTLE

THE LAST MONTHS OF FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT

Eloquently exposing the open secret of Franklin Roosevelt’s advanced heart disease.

Was FDR’s decision to run for an unprecedented fourth term while in a state of such disastrous health foolhardy or inevitable? In this meticulous psychological study delineating FDR’s crucial final acts as president—e.g., meeting Joseph Stalin for the first time in Tehran in November 1943, articulating the Four Freedoms, framing the United Nations, advocating for a democratic government in Poland, and winning the war—former New York Times executive editor and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Lelyveld (Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India, 2011, etc.) portrays a melancholy, ailing president contemplating a fourth term as if “cornered” and resigned to seeing no alternative. The author asserts that FDR allowed himself to dream of resigning in his fourth term, yet there was simply too much at stake: the country would not let him go. The weight of the stress, however, was literally killing him, and despite the “roseate prognoses and testimonials” by his longtime physician, Ross McIntire, Lelyveld asserts that FDR “knew more than he let on” about the state of his heart, citing confidante Daisy Suckley’s frank acknowledgements in her long-hidden diary. The truth would be confirmed by Navy cardiologist Howard G. Bruenn, who was finally summoned by FDR’s worried daughter, Anna, in 1944. The author expertly puts together a string of poignant clues to FDR’s last acts, as if he were acknowledging the need for a proper successor in choosing Harry Truman for a running mate, thereby jettisoning the problematic Henry Wallace, and contemplating his own mortality by seeking out his former flame, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, in several tender elegiac meetings, particularly his last dying day. In the end, Roosevelt was pondering the example of his hero, Woodrow Wilson.

An elegant, affecting work that offers fresh insights on a much-mythologized president.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-35079-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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