”Senator barkley and I will win this election and make these Republicans like it--don’t you forget that!”
“I recommended an increase in the minimum wage. What did I get? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!”
Harry S. TrumanA very jubilant Harry
In 1948 the Republicans thought they had a lock on the presidential election. The New York Lion, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was dead, and that little pipsqueak from Missouri, Harry Truman, did not stand a chance. Thomas Dewey had been the Republican nominee in 1944, and had been soundly trounced by the electoral college 432 to 99. With Roosevelt finally off the ticket, this time he was going to win. In Owosso, Michigan they are so sure that Dewey is going to be the next president they are commissioning a walk to be built that will handle all the visitors that will be flocking to Dewey’s hometown to see where he was born and raised. Now maybe it makes sense that his hometown would feel this way, after all he is almost the most famous person to ever be born in Owosso. As President he would finally eclipse James Oliver Curwood, the bestselling author and the builder of that "monstrosity" Curwood Castle, in the esteem of the residents. Curwood Castle
Anne Macmurray, aspiring writer and bookstore clerk, not only has to choose between two men for President, but also has to choose between two men vying for her affections and like the two presidential candidates her suitors are members of different political parties. As Truman goes on the offensive, attacking a do nothing Republican congress, in an attempt to win back the affections of the people who idolized his predecessor, Anne is also beseeched by her men and as one seems to gain an upper hand the other valiantly tries to keep her attention.
We know who she should marry and so does she,
but we can’t always help who we fall in love with.
Jane Herrick lives in Owosso, but is trapped in the past. She lost her son in the war and her life revolves around memories of him and the other boys that died. ”She lived on anniversaries. They came along like mealtimes in a hospital--regular, necessary and much anticipated occasions. Dark Anniversaries as well as happy ones, dates pertaining not only to Arnie but to other dead boys, too: births, graduations, inductions. her year was as complicated as the Catholics’ church calendar...This December 17 would be the fourth one since 1944’s which had been the third December 17 you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing Bing Crosby sing ‘White Christmas’; the last December 17 she had worn her green felt skirt to the Fellers’ Christmas party; the December 17 Arnie had been machine-pistoled to death along with eighty-five other American prisoners of war at Malmedy, Belgium.”
Her second son Tim is living in this mausoleum of her making and feels he needs to do something drastic to pull himself out of this dark whirlpool of sadness that surrounds his mother as she bludgeons herself with these meaningless daily anniversaries. Tim has an unhealthy relationship with the book [b:Raintree County|257233|Raintree County|Ross Lockridge|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1173206735s/257233.jpg|249300] as he tries to make sense of why the author Ross Lockridge Jr. killed himself at the very moment when he was achieving success.
There are many more characters dotting the landscape of this novel. A Colonel with a secret that must be kept hidden. A teacher with a telescope that he uses to lure handsome young men into his attic. This is a book about secrets, small town secrets that turn out to be just as prevalent and just as dark as those of people living anywhere. ”You can’t get rid of the past. The past is not a matter of time. It’s a place. Somewhere just out of reach.”
Without Roosevelt on the ticket in 1948 the enthusiasm of the American people was tepid at best. They missed his leadership; his assurances, but most importantly they missed his amber voice. ”It was when she walked back to the booth and collected the three face-up Franklin D. Roosevelt dimes the men had left for her that she realized whose voice she’d missed coming out of the radio tonight, the only one without a band behind it that had ever made her turn up the sound.”Governor Thomas E. Dewey
The American people in 1948 were still recovering from the mental fatigue and the sorrow of war. It was understandable that they looked at both candidates with jaundiced eyes. They just didn't measure up. Polling showed Dewey well ahead. Newspapers were printed ahead of time with headlines touting Dewey's victory. Republicans were sauntering around brimming with confidence. This reminded me of the most recent election with Mitt Romney despite polling that said they were going to lose were acting like people ready to start measuring for drapes in the oval office. At least in Dewey’s defense he was fooled by what turned out to be very bad polling data. He did improve on his performance against Roosevelt, but still lost rather badly in the electoral college 303 to 189. The spread would have been much worse if J. Strom Thurmond hadn’t won four states in the South as a third party candidate. Truman’s gamble to run against congress rather than against a candidate paid off. He turned out to be a lot feistier than what his opponents thought possible.
Being a presidential political junkie I wanted more politics, but I think to most of the reading population Thomas Mallon showed a deft hand using the election as a backdrop instead of putting it on center stage. He explored the lives of the people of Owosso in a time when people could tell the world was changing very quickly and they were unsure of what their place would be in it. Some could cling to their past, but the majority of people will have to make adjustments and will have to embrace a new President along with a universe that is moving just ever so quicker with every new revolution.