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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.
“Fascinating. . . . Gripping. . . . Stunning . . . has a much bigger scope than the events surrounding Garfield’s slow, lingering death. It is the haunting tale of how a man who never meant to seek the presidency found himself swept into the White House. . . . Ms. Millard shows the Garfield legacy to be much more important than most of her readers knew it to be.” —The New York Times
“Brings the era and people involved to vivid life. . . . Millard takes the reader on a compelling fly on-the-wall journey with these two men until that fateful day in a train station when Guiteau shot Garfield. . . . Millard takes all of these elements in a forgotten period of history and turns them into living and breathing things. The writing immerses readers into the period, making them feel as though they are living at that time. Comparisons to Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America are justified, but Destiny of the Republic is better.” —Associated Press
“Think you’re not interested in James Garfield, our 20th President? Millard’s action-packed account of his life and truly strange death should change your mind.” —People Magazine
“Fascinating. . . . Millard builds a popular history that is both substantive and satisfying. Filled with memorable characters, hairpin twists of fate and consequences that bring a young nation to the breaking point, Destiny of the Republic brings back to roaring life a tragic but irresistible historical period. . . . Meticulous research. . . . Intriguing.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“A winning amalgamation of history and adventure. [Millard’s books] exhibit a keen eye for human frailties.” —Washington Post
“An achingly good, suspenseful read . . . compelling characters and nail-biting storytelling, and [readers] will no doubt walk away even more emotionally affected by Garfield’s tragedy . . . deftly skilled. . . . One cannot help but hope that through Millard’s book, the ultimately inspiring story of America’s 20th president and the race to save his life will fill our minds and stay awhile.” —Kansas City Star
“Blends science, medicine, and politics in a crime story that grabs tight and it does not let go until the very last page. This is historical reporting at its very best. Millard has done more, however, than just revisit a presidential shooting….. A remarkable book. It is crisply written and riveting. The murder of Garfield created a crucial turning point in our national history. How this event galvanized our country and changed it forever is a must-read story that features a relentless narrative by a talented writer at the top of her game.” —Tucson Citizen
“[Millard demonstrates] the power of expert storytelling to wonderfully animate even the simplest facts. . . . Make[s] for compulsive reading. Superb American history.” —Kirkus, starred review
“Splendidly insightful . . . stands securely at the crossroads of popular and professional history.” —Booklist, starred review
“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
“Historian Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic is first-rate history, political intrigue, and a true-crime story all rolled into one. Millard is masterful at capturing the zeitgeist of America during the 1880s, when President James Garfield was assassinated. An epic must-read!” —Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior
“In this brilliant and riveting work, Candice Millard demonstrates the power of narrative nonfiction. Through exhaustive research and flawless storytelling, she has brought to life one of the most harrowing and fascinating sagas in American history—a saga filled with political intrigue, a mad assassin, and a frantic scientific struggle to save the life of a noble president. This is a book that is impossible to put down.” —David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z
“Candice Millard has done it again: She’s turned the sometimes stodgy realm of presidential history on its head with a gripping tale of high danger and stoic endurance, a tale that had nearly completely vanished from public memory. What an exceptional man and what an exciting era Millard has brought to elegant life on the page! After reading Destiny of the Republic, you’ll never think of James A. Garfield as a ‘minor’ president again—and you’ll despise anew our national penchant for hatching madmen who snuff out greatness in its prime.” —Hampton Sides, author of Hellhound on His Trail
“In President Garfield’s assassination, Candice Millard has rediscovered one of the great forgotten stories in American history. Millard has turned Garfield’s story into a crackling tale of suspense and a panoramic picture of a fascinating but forgotten era. If you enjoy reading about Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, you will find this book riveting.” —Debby Applegate, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Most Famous Man in America
“As she did in The River of Doubt, Candice Millard has written another riveting narrative, this time about a long-neglected but remarkable president, James A. Garfield, who was shot by a deranged office seeker just a few weeks after he assumed the presidency. What happens next is detailed in the accomplished book. Just as Millard put us deep in the Amazon with Teddy Roosevelt, she has skillfully allowed us to share this traumatic moment.” —Ken Burns