Had the June meeting here (Bob’s House) to discuss the non fiction book on James Garfield titled ‘Destiny of the Republic’ by Candice Milliard. We had a smaller than normal turnout (5), but that didn’t hamper the discussion of the book. The book was roundly liked by those in attendance.
The initial discussion started with Garfield himself. No one in the group had any idea of the kind of man and President he was. We were all surprised at how he was able to rise to the level he did in Academia, in the Military, and in Politics given the circumstances of his upbringing. He goes from a janitor to a professor and head of a university in 2 years, rises in rank to a 2 star General in the Civil War, and ascends to the President of the United States not by politicking but because his party and the country had its faith in him. We all wondered what he would have done, had he the opportunity to lead the nation for 1 or more terms. He could have easily gone from a Presidential enigma to a great leader of this nation were it not for the actions of a crazy man.
A second topic we spent time discussing was the medical aspect of the book. How Bliss was able to take over and direct the medical care of Garfield with no one questioning his authority really makes me scratch my head. Granted 1881 was a different time with respect to medical care, but his absolute authority in the direction of care of a sitting president mystifies me.
Bliss’s influence on Alexander Graham Bell’s attempt to use his invention to find the bullet in Garfield’s body potentially caused the death of the president. There is a term ‘iatrogenic’ which means at the hands of the physician. Bliss was ultimately responsible for the iatrogenic death of James Garfield.
A last area of discussion, which Mike brought to our attention, related to all the characters that the author brought to light in the book. He likened the book to a Google search on the death of Garfield. So if you were to do a Google search on that the author tied in all the people that search would return. I thought it was an interesting idea in light of the search capabilities we all have at our fingertips.
I liked the book enough that I am excited to read her first book on Teddy Roosevelt. I’ll let you all know if she uses the same techniques in that book.
See you in the fall