The Man He Became by James Tobin
How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency

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Mr. Tobin's tight, lucid narrative may leave readers longing for more, in which case they might turn to Geoffrey Ward's "A First-Class Temperament" (1989) for a more detailed account of FDR's polio ordeal. Still, the story merits retelling. Mr. Tobin presents it skillfully and with admirable empathy.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

Here, from James Tobin, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in biography, is the story of the greatest comeback in American political history, a saga long buried in half-truth, distortion, and myth—Franklin Roosevelt’s ten-year climb from paralysis to the White House.

In 1921, at the age of thirty-nine, Roosevelt was the brightest young star in the Democratic Party. One day he was racing his children around their summer home. Two days later he could not stand up. Hopes of a quick recovery faded fast. “He’s through,” said allies and enemies alike. Even his family and close friends misjudged their man, as they and the nation would learn in time.

With a painstaking reexamination of original documents, James Tobin uncovers the twisted chain of accidents that left FDR paralyzed; he reveals how polio recast Roosevelt’s fateful partnership with his wife, Eleanor; and he shows that FDR’s true victory was not over paralysis but over the ancient stigma attached to the disabled. Tobin also explodes the conventional wisdom of recent years—that FDR deceived the public about his condition. In fact, Roosevelt and his chief aide, Louis Howe, understood that only by displaying himself as a man who had come back from a knockout punch could FDR erase the perception that had followed him from childhood—that he was a pampered, too smooth pretty boy without the strength to lead the nation. As Tobin persuasively argues, FDR became president less in spite of polio than because of polio.

The Man He Became affirms that true character emerges only in crisis and that in the shaping of this great American leader character was all.
 

About James Tobin

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James Tobin is an associate professor of journalism at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. A former prizewinning reporter, he earned a PhD in history from the University of Michigan. His first book, Ernie Pyle’s War (Free Press), won the National Book Critics Circle award.
 
Published November 12, 2013 by Simon & Schuster. 385 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Man He Became
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Good
on Sep 21 2013

Medical history, physical and psychological stress, and human ambition are the prominent strands in this rich narrative carpet.

Read Full Review of The Man He Became: How FDR De... | See more reviews from Kirkus

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by Alonzo L. Hamby on Jan 02 2014

Mr. Tobin's tight, lucid narrative may leave readers longing for more, in which case they might turn to Geoffrey Ward's "A First-Class Temperament" (1989) for a more detailed account of FDR's polio ordeal. Still, the story merits retelling. Mr. Tobin presents it skillfully and with admirable empathy.

Read Full Review of The Man He Became: How FDR De... | See more reviews from WSJ online

Washington Times

Good
Reviewed by Kevin P. McVicker on Feb 19 2014

“The Man He Became” remains tightly focused on FDR’s physical recovery and political ascendancy without becoming myopic...“The Man He Became” is a critically important work in understanding the character and political development of Franklin Roosevelt.

Read Full Review of The Man He Became: How FDR De... | See more reviews from Washington Times

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