ELEANOR VS. IKE by Robin Gerber

ELEANOR VS. IKE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This dewy eyed fiction about Eleanor Roosevelt beating Eisenhower to become the first woman president in 1952 makes barely veiled allusions to the current campaign.

Eleanor is enjoying her 60s. She’s traveling the world for good causes and is romantically, even passionately, involved with a dashing younger man. When President Truman announces he will not seek another term, Adlai Stevenson is the likely Democratic nominee. Ike is a shoo-in for the Republicans. Although a brilliant military strategist, Ike lacks political substance and easily caves to the likes of right-wing Joseph McCarthy. Furthermore, Ike’s marriage to alcoholic Mamie is a sham, not unlike FDR’s to long-suffering Eleanor. Stevenson, whose wishy-washy commitment to the race has worried Eleanor, drops dead as he is about to accept the nomination. Eleanor is quickly drafted. She accepts the challenge out of pure altruism. With House Speaker Sam Rayburn as her running mate, Eleanor runs her campaign with integrity, surrounded by a coterie of idealists in contrast to the mean-spirited, back-stabbing Republicans. After Ike’s running mate Nixon gives a speech about his cocker spaniel “Checkers,” Eleanor exposes his political manipulations, outraged that he has emotionally manipulated the American public. J. Edgar Hoover attempts to smear Eleanor with a letter concerning her lesbian love affair, but after Truman burns a letter Ike wrote asking permission to divorce Mamie for Kay Summersby, Ike refuses to use Hoover’s dirt. Eleanor outshines Ike in history’s first televised presidential debate, and despite conventional wisdom, which says a woman can’t win, the race grows too close to call. Even being shot (in the arm) by a would-be assassin won’t stop Eleanor. She wins by one electoral vote, having spent Election Day in the Alabama hospital room of an African American who’s been brutally attacked for registering voters. That Eleanor, what a saint!

Even the most diehard fans of Eleanor—or Hillary Clinton, who makes a cameo appearance—will find the wooden dialogue and preachy pseudo-history nearly unreadable.

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-137321-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2007