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Extended Audio Sample Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President Audiobook, by Candice Millard Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.00003102961918 out of 54.00003102961918 out of 54.00003102961918 out of 54.00003102961918 out of 54.00003102961918 out of 5 4.00 (10,635 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Candice Millard Narrator: Paul Michael Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2011 ISBN: 9780307939661
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James A. Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • 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.
  • 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
  • “Splendid…[It] recovers for us just what a remarkable—even noble—man Garfield was…She also chillingly depicts his killer…This wonderful book reminds us that our twentieth president was neither a minor nor merely a tragic figure, but rather an extraordinary one.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “By keeping a tight hold on her narrative strands, Millard crafts a popular history rich with detail and emotion. One of the pleasures of the book is the chance to learn more about Garfield, who appears as a fully realized historical figure instead of a trivia answer.”

    Salon

  • “Millard provides a splendidly written and suspenseful account of this fascinating episode in American history.”

    Oregonian

  • “Fascinating…Millard colorfully recreates the political milieu of 1880.”

    Seattle Times

  • “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.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Think you’re not interested in James Garfield, our twentieth president? Millard’s action-packed account of his life and truly strange death should change your mind.”

    People

  • “Brings the era and people involved to vivid life…Takes the reader on a compelling fly on-the-wall journey…Millard takes all of these elements in a forgotten period of history and turns them into living and breathing things.”

    Associated Press

  • Destiny of the Republic displays Millard’s energetic writing and rare ability to effortlessly educate the listener.”

    USA Today

  • “Fascinating…Gripping…Stunning…The haunting tale of how a man who never meant to seek the presidency found himself swept into the White House…Millard shows the Garfield legacy to be much more important than most of her readers knew it to be.”

    New York Times

  • “A spirited tale that intertwines murder, politics, and medical mystery…Candice Millard leaves us feeling that Garfield’s assassination deprived the nation not only of a remarkably humble and intellectually gifted man but one who perhaps bore the seeds of greatness…Splendidly drawn portraits…Alexander Graham Bell makes a bravura appearance.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Crisp, concise, and revealing history…A fresh narrative that plumbs some of the most dramatic days in U.S. presidential history.”

    Washington Post

  • A New York Times Notable Book of 2011
    Winner of the 2012 PEN award for Research Nonfiction
  • A staggering tale....Millard digs deeply into the turmoil that got James A. Garfield elected, the lunacy that got him shot and the medical malfeasance that turned a minor wound into a mortal one. Janet Maslin, Top 10 Recommendations for 2011
  • One of the many pleasures of Candice Millard’s new book, Destiny of the Republic, [is] that she brings poor Garfield to life—and a remarkable life it was…..Fascinating… Outstanding….Millard has written us a penetrating human tragedy. The New York Times Book Review
  • A spirited tale that intertwines murder, politics and medical mystery, Candice Millard leaves us feeling that Garfield's assassination deprived the nation not only of a remarkably humble and intellectually gifted man but one who perhaps bore the seeds of greatness…. splendidly drawn portraits…. Alexander Graham Bell makes a bravura appearance The Wall Street Journal
  • 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
  • “Crisp, concise and revealing history….Millard has crafted a fresh narrative that plumbs some of the most dramatic days in U.S. presidential history The Washington Post
  • Destiny of the Republic displays Millard's energetic writing and rare ability to effortlessly educate the listener. USA Today

  • 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
  • A winning amalgamation of history and adventure. They [Millard’s books] exhibit a keen eye for human frailties. Washington Post 
  • Fascinating....Millard colorfully recreates the political milieu of 1880....The story is a natural for narrative history. Millard has created a readable and colorful account. The Seattle Times
  • Millard provides a splendidly written and suspenseful account of this fascinating episode in American history Portland Oregonian
  • [Garfield’s] murder serves as a lens through which to examine Garfield's life, Guiteau's peripatetic existence, the fortunes of the Republican Party, the political spoils system, the role of scientific invention, and the state of the American medical profession. By keeping a tight hold on her narrative strands, Millard crafts a popular history rich with detail and emotion. One of the pleasures of the book is the chance to learn more about Garfield, who appears as a fully realized historical figure instead of a trivia answer…..ability to bring to life the man at the center of her story, and his brief entry into the annals of presidential history. Salon
  • [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
  • 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
  • “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

  • “Splendidly insightful…Stands securely at the crossroads of popular and professional history.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Make[s] for compulsive reading. Superb American history.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • Destiny of the Republic is popular history at its best—accessible, educational, and entertaining—and Millard renders it with grace, power, and sympathy.”

    Richmond Times-Dispatch

  • “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.”

    Kansas City Star

  • Splendidly insightful....stands securely at the crossroads of popular and professional history Booklist, starred review
  • It takes a gifted writer to prompt a reader to spend a lot of time with a book in which James Garfield is the main character. Candice Millard has done that. In addition to providing insights about our 20th commander-in-chief, “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President” is an engaging, elegantly written and insightful look at the political and scientific developments of late-19th century America….In the best tradition of the great writers of narrative nonfiction, Ms. Millard deftly blends the stories of Garfield and Bell and assassin Charles Guiteau and makes readers feel as if they were witnesses to the key events….. research and narrative prowess….twists and turns….This tale of physician error contextualized by politics and murder makes for riveting reading. Ms. Millard recounts this episode of our nation’s history in a style that keeps readers on the edge of their seats even though the ending is known. The Washington Times
  • Splendid….recovers for us just what a remarkable -- even noble -- man Garfield was……She also chillingly depicts his killer….highly readable account offers much more than parallel biographies, however. She vividly captures an era of savage political infighting, lax security for public figures and appalling medical ignorance….This wonderful book reminds us that our 20th president was neither a minor nor merely a tragic figure, but rather an extraordinary one. Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • 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 chronicles all this with precision and skill. She creates a vivid portrait of the times, a vulnerable nation, political hardball, nightmarish decision-making and the eloquent Garfield, who's a footnote for generations of high school students. She covers topics as diverse as the fiefdom of New York senator and patronage dispenser Roscoe Conkling, and the mind of Alexander Graham Bell, working on an electrical device to find the bullet lodged in Garfield's back. Millard seamlessly unfolds multiple tales....Millard finds the ironies of history throughout this stirring narrative, one that's full of suspense even though you know what's coming. She makes you a witness, not a reader. Erie Times
  • One was a distinguished winner, the other a disturbed loser. And when their paths intersected, the course of American history was changed. In "The Destiny of the Republic," Candice Millard tells their stories with depth and verve….. exhaustive research…. but the result of her scholarship is decidedly unstuffy. The power of her narrative drives the reader from page to page as the tragic tale unfolds, and the portraits of the main players are created with a love for the relevant detail. "The Destiny of the Republic" is popular history at its best — accessible, educational and entertaining — and Millard renders it with grace, power and sympathy. Richmond Times Dispatch
  • Winner of the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Fact Crime
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • One of the 2011 Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 Barnes & Noble Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 ALA Notable Book for Nonfiction
  • Winner of the 2012 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title
  • A 2011 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sheri faulk | 2/17/2014

    " I really enjoyed this! Read like a historical fiction - althrough it is NONFICTION! My cup of tea - very educating! Make me want to read a biography of Alexander Graham Bell as well (I feel like I've already got a good insight after reading this book)! Worth the read! I've referred it to many. I checked it out at the library or I'd lend it out. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Betsy | 2/10/2014

    " Very interesting book about President Garfield's assassination. Author did a great job jumping back and forth between chapters about him and about his assassin. Liked her writing and thought she did a great job with background and history of both men. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jessie | 2/4/2014

    " Cinematic storytelling opens up a period of our history that is often overlooked. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gwenn | 2/3/2014

    " A great must read about a little known President, James Garfield. What a renowned President he would have been if not for a deranged man. It is a profound read on the famous inventors involved in inventions that would have saved Garfield's life had Dr. Bliss not been his own designated surgeon of Garfield. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tom Gray | 1/28/2014

    " Good pop history. But way too much on Alexander Graham Bell and not enough on weirdo Charles Guiteau. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Matt | 1/22/2014

    " I enjoyed Millard's River of Doubt and also really liked this book. I knew nothing about President Garfield so it was amazing to learn what a dynamic figure he was and what an advocate of social equality he was. It was a shame he didn't get a chance to put his mark on the presidency. The medical side of the story got a little tiresome toward the end but all in all a great book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Janet | 1/12/2014

    " This book was awesome! The well-told story of the brief presidency of James Garfield interwoven with the life of his assassin. Masterfully written, the author does a fantastic job of putting readers into the antebellum period of America and includes all of the detail to give the reader a firm understanding of the factors that played into the president's death. Through her comprehensive descriptions, the reader finds that although in America, the place where James Garfield lived was far different from our own. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jason Mccue | 1/12/2014

    " Very interesting history around the assassination of Garfield. Had the view of all the players involved in both the direct murder and the people who tried to save his life. Recommended read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janet | 1/9/2014

    " It was an wonderful read. I almost felt like I was reading a novel! I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in presidential biographical books as well as anyone interested in the historical aspects of medicine. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bob | 1/1/2014

    " I can't remember how this book was recommended to me but I am certainly glad it was. The subject matter didn't particularly appeal to me when I read the synopsis. But if you like history and biographies, I think you will really like this book. I loved it. Fascinating and very well written. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rick | 12/26/2013

    " I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It covered an event and a president I knew next to nothing about. Almost identical in style to Eric Larson, it reads like a Ken Burns script. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 William Gatevackes | 12/21/2013

    " Great book. Tell the fascinating and tragic story of the assassination of James Garfield. A must read for any history buff. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Pamela Baracho | 12/15/2013

    " This book was fascinating! There were so many interesting things that I didn't know. President Garfield was an amazing man who was shot down in the prime of his life. It was interesting how Alexander Graham Bell created an instrument to find the bullet that was inside Garfield. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michaela | 12/10/2013

    " Surprisingly touching and inspiring biography of a great man. Even his death gave back to our nation. If only we could have a presidential candidate like him today. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kim | 6/24/2013

    " Just started this and can't put it down. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kim | 2/27/2013

    " I highly recommend this book, It does not read like a typical non fiction. The interweaving of the interesting characters is truly remarkable and interesting, books seldom make me tear but the author makes you connect with the characters in such an intimate way that you can not help yourself. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ross | 9/10/2012

    " Outstanding book, very engaging and well written. Loved it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Terry Carasick | 8/13/2012

    " Very, very good. The medical info was appealing to me and a shame that the medical profession basically killed him. Did not know anything about this president before reading the book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Katharine Holden | 6/30/2012

    " Interesting account of American medical views in Garfield's era but book is marred by overwriting and many stretches of purple writing . Author tries too hard to let us know that it's too bad Garfield and his presidency are all but forgotten. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Richard | 6/19/2012

    " Excellent short history of Garfield; book is well written, interesting and enjoyable; parallel plot with Alexander Bell OK but a bit contrived. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Veronica Riepe | 5/7/2012

    " Absolutely loved it!!! Great recommendation from a friend and the One Book One Lincoln program. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Deb Fullerton | 3/26/2012

    " When I started listening to this book I didn't know too much about any of the subjects. But, I found it to be very interesting and now I want to more about James Garfield. I loved this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ron Christiansen | 2/27/2012

    " A compelling read about a president I knew nothing about--what an amazing man and what a horrible loss. So so difficult to read the last 1/3 of the book as I was seething at the ironically named doctor, Bliss, who unintentionally killed Garfield. What an incredibly prideful idiot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ann | 12/19/2011

    " Good read. Very well researched and the story well-told. Found some of the medical stuff heartbreaking. Very interesting history. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kristen | 11/24/2011

    " I really knew nothing about Garfield. This is well-written and weaves together the story of Garfield with the medical field, Lister, and Alexander Graham Bell. Good read! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 11/8/2011

    " I really enjoyed this book. I was fascinated by the events that occurred during this time period. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ann | 11/1/2011

    " A fasinating insight into President Garfield. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa | 10/24/2011

    " Poor man!!!! Such a sad story! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Denise | 10/23/2011

    " Really interesting. I learned a lot about this President and this time period that I didn't know. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kathy | 10/23/2011

    " A delightful and well-researched history book about the brief presidency of Garfield. Well-written and extremely interesting to read of the events of his assassination and of related events of the time (early 1880s). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barb | 10/21/2011

    " Fascinating look at an overlooked president, the assassination he could have survived had the medical practices of the time not interfered, and the legacy of unity between North and South that his death left behind. "

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About the Author

Candice Millard is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The River of Doubt, Destiny of the Republic, and Hero of the Empire. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Time, the Washington Post, and the New York Times Book Review.

About the Narrator

Paul Michael is an Audie Award-winning narrator. He has acted on stage, radio, television, and in feature films in Canada, Great Britain, and the United States. He has had leading roles in series and made-for-television movies and has guest starred in such series as VIP and Alias. He has been nominated for a Canadian Emmy (or Nellie) and has recorded over 150 audiobooks, including the international bestseller The Da Vinci Code, winning more than a dozen AudioFile Earphones Awards.