#61 ~ Eleanor vs. Ike

March 17, 2008 at 3:45 pm | Posted in Books, Inspiration, Reading, Secrets and Lies | 6 Comments
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Eleanor vs. Ike: A Novel by Robin Gerber

Robin Gerber was once asked while giving a talk about in conjunction with her book, Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way, if Eleanor Roosevelt ever did anything wrong. Ms. Gerber’s response was, “Yes, she should have run for president.” From that question and her own response, Eleanor vs. Ike, an interesting, fun, and fast-paced novel, was born. It imagines what might have happened if Eleanor Roosevelt ran for president in 1952 against Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Gerber’s inaugural novel begins with Eleanor in Europe, finishing work on a United Nations meeting. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away, Eleanor continued to work for our country. While preparing to leave the meeting, she received an obituary for Lucy Rutherford, a woman with whom her husband had had an affair. Opening the novel with this story really worked to peak my interest about Eleanor. Other than what I may have learned about her in school and the glimpse of her in Annie, I do not know much about her or the world that she inhabited. I was drawn in to the novel by the story of her marriage and childhood.

There is also a lot to be learned and thought through along the roller coaster ride of the 1952 presidential election. Not only did Eleanor and Ike have voices in this novel, so did their staff and their supporters. Sometimes having too many narrators can weigh a novel down, but seeing the campaign from the inside and the outside made it a richer experience. In a time of election, especially during a time of political crisis, we all work together – or, in the case of fringe groups like the KKK, against each other – to determine the course of our history.

As a country, we’ve never had a female represent either major party as it’s presidential candidate. While that might change by the end of the summer, Eleanor vs. Ike addressed many of the issues such a race would bring up. In Gerber’s election of 1952, Eleanor’s detractors were men. I was anticipating another woman to rise up and wreak havoc on her campaign, but such a woman never materialized. Women do tend to serve as each other’s worst enemies, but having Eleanor’s vocal and vicious opposition made up by men is appropriate for that time period. Both political parties were run and controlled by men. A woman would have to run through that gauntlet first. If Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic candidate for president, it will be interesting to see if that has changed.

If I have no vested interest in the outcome, I tend to root for the underdog. This may be attributed to the fact that I grew up as a Detroit Tiger fan, but it’s a part of me nonetheless. Eleanor’s gender and personal insecurities easily made her seem to be an underdog, but her courage in her convictions and her love for her country made her a strong person and a formidable candidate. Despite the fact that there never really was a runoff between Eleanor and Ike, I got caught up in the campaign. Gerber’s dialog is wonderfully readable and moves the novel forward. I stayed up way past my bed time to find out who won the election of 1952 and it was well worth the loss of sleep. We need more leaders like Eleanor Roosevelt, be they Democrats or Republicans. Although she was never on the ballot, I promise you won’t regret casting your vote for her by reading this book.

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To buy this novel, click here.

An Exciting Opportunity Coming Our Way!

February 28, 2008 at 2:10 pm | Posted in Books, Free, Historical Fiction, LIfe, My Life with Books, Reading | 1 Comment
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Earlier this week I was approached by one of the Online Marketing Managers at HarperCollins to see if I would be interested in receiving an Advanced Readers Copy of Eleanor Vs Ike by Robin Gerber.  Here’s a short description of the book:

“Captivating and fast-paced, Eleanor vs. Ike pits the unforgettable Eleanor against the enormously popular war hero, Gen. Dwight David (“Ike”) Eisenhower. But while the opponents promise “an honest campaign,” their strategists have other ideas, miring the race in scandal and bitter innuendo. Suddenly Eleanor finds herself a target of powerful insiders who mean to destroy her good name–and Ku Klux Klan assassins dedicated to her death–as she gets caught up in a mad whirl of appearances and political maneuvering…and a chance encounter with a precocious five-year-old named Hillary Rodham.”

I will also have the opportunity to interview the author!  I’ve never done that before and am looking forward to it.  Check out the links to the book and the author.  If you have any questions you’d like me to ask, let me know.

Still,  the best part is that in the end I’ll have another *free* copy to be given out to one of my readers!  Let me know if you’d be interested by comment or by email.  A week after I’ve posted my review of the book and interview with the author, I’ll hold a drawing.  Fun, fun, fun!!!

I should be receiving my copy of the book soon.  I’ll keep you updated.  Reading a historical “what if?” is going to be new and interesting experience for me.

#54 ~ Dreamers of the Day

December 31, 2007 at 11:21 am | Posted in Books, Brain Food for Thought, Culture, Family, Historical Fiction, LibraryThing, LIfe, Reading, Secrets and Lies | Leave a comment
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Dreamers of the Day: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell

This novel tells the story of Agnes Shanklin, a dowdy, severely skeptical 40-year-old spinster who still needs the reassurance of her mother’s approval before making any decision. When Mumma and the rest of her family dies during the influenza epidemic, Agnes inherits a small fortune. Despite the nagging voice of Mumma in her head, she begins to dress in a way that flatters her figure and decides to follow in the footsteps of her deceased sister Lillian, the woman through whom she’s lived vicariously since their days in college. She takes a trip to Egypt, the land of Lawrence of Arabia and her trip happens to coincide with Churchill’s Cairo Conference.

Agnes is an intelligent woman who feels she knows the true inner workings of American domestic and foreign policy and how it was that United States got involved in WWI. Very near to the beginning of her dialog with the reader, she explains how it was the use of marketing language and lies involving Mexico that got this nation fired up to fight. I found it interesting that the narrator handily denounces such strategies near the beginning of her story while using the rest of her story to dish out her own propaganda.

It must be as frustrating to live a life full of self-righteous skepticism as it is at times to read Agnes’ story. Here she is a woman who takes a huge leap of faith in herself and, as a result of a connection made by her sister, happens upon Lawrence of Arabia, Gertrude Bell, and Winston Churchill in Cairo, Egypt at a most decisive time in history. Simply because of Lawrence’s affection for Lillian, Agnes is given the opportunity to take part in important discussions with some of the most important political leaders of her lifetime. Even while she feels as though she is looked down upon for being a woman and an American, she was constantly critical of their manners and their convictions. Their real-life experiences mattered not. She knew better than they did.

Separating myself from Agnes’ intellect, I enjoyed reading this book. I identified with Agnes’ inner relationship with her mother a great deal. As the oldest child, you sometimes feel the need to not go after what you want in order to lighten the burden on your parent(s). My parents did not expect this of me the way that Agnes’ mother seemed to, but I believe that we both operated from the same mindset. I very much appreciated Agnes’ mistrust in herself, her body, and male attention. I also enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the landscape, culture, and people of the Middle East. The description of the day that Agnes spent with Churchill and company riding camels to see the pyramids captured the experience perfectly.

In the end, I was disappointed with the literary device the author used to turn Agnes’ story into her own morality lesson about American politics today. It would have been much more beautiful and moving had she painted the story as it was in watercolor.

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To buy this novel, click here.

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