Becoming FDR Book Summary - Becoming FDR Book explained in key points
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Becoming FDR summary

Jonathan Darman

The Personal Crisis That Made a President

4.3 (117 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

Becoming FDR delves into the life of Franklin D. Roosevelt, detailing the transformational journey that shaped him into one of America's most influential presidents. Jonathan Darman provides a fascinating exploration of FDR's character, leadership style, and lasting impact on the nation.

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    Becoming FDR
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    One August morning in 1921, Franklin Delano Roosevelt woke with a raging fever. He was just a day into a long-awaited family vacation. Normally energetic and manically driven, his wife Eleanor became concerned the evening before when he retired to bed early complaining of fatigue and chills. By morning it was clear her concern was justified.

    When Franklin tried to stand, his legs wouldn’t bear his weight. Collapsing back into bed, he spent weeks trapped there between raging fevers and hallucination-filled sleep. With only Eleanor and his devoted political strategist, Louis Howe, as caretakers, the family vacation quickly changed into a test of endurance. The once public Roosevelt family closed ranks and saw to Franklin’s care around-the-clock. He couldn’t even use the toilet without assistance.

    Their remote location, a longtime summer retreat for Franklin’s family, meant that getting a doctor was a considerable undertaking. The one they did finally manage to summon to the island, from the mainland at Lubec, Maine, was a long-time family acquaintance of the Roosevelts. Unfortunately, he misdiagnosed Franklin’s condition as paralysis from a blood clot with extreme exhaustion from overwork. Had this physician known of the recent outbreaks of polio in communities surrounding New York, he might have considered another diagnosis.

    Sadly for Franklin, the correct diagnosis offered far less hope than the local physician’s incorrect one. Muscles and nerves that had been damaged by a clot could be rehabilitated and function. Paralysis from polio infection, also known as infantile paralysis, wasn’t like that at all. When polio causes a severe infection, it can evade the body’s defenses and invade multiple systems – literally destroying muscles, nerves, and even organs. In such cases, functionality is likely never to return.

    For a man whose political career had thus far been built on his imposing height, pleasant demeanor, and physical prowess at the Democratic National Conventions, this diagnosis was devastating. Always the golden boy and pampered son, whose grace and athleticism won him admiration if not loyalty, his days as a shallow political aspirant were over. His time of struggle, determination, and optimism to the brink of self-delusion had begun. 

    Once an appropriate diagnosis was made, through the intervention of outside doctors, one thing was clear. The lack of early intervention and appropriate treatment during his infection with the polio virus had set him back greatly. Now incapable of controlling his movements below the waist, he had no clear path back to health.

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    What is Becoming FDR about?

    Becoming FDR (2022) tells the remarkable story of the personal health crisis and recovery that transformed Franklin D. Roosevelt from a self-centered, pampered golden boy to the mature, empathetic President who would go on to lead a nation through the darkest days of The Great Depression and the second World War. 

    Becoming FDR Review

    Becoming FDR (2015) by Jonathan Darman is a captivating exploration of Franklin D. Roosevelt's rise to power and his transformational presidency. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Through detailed research and vivid storytelling, it offers a deep understanding of FDR's political journey and the challenges he faced along the way.
    • This book provides insightful analysis into how FDR's leadership style and policies shaped America during the turbulent times of the Great Depression and World War II.
    • By examining the man behind the iconic figure, Becoming FDR offers a fresh perspective on one of the most influential presidents in American history.

    Who should read Becoming FDR?

    • History buffs looking for the inside story on one of America’s defining presidents
    • Political minds curious about the personalities that shaped the twentieth century
    • Anyone curious about how crisis and adversity can shape character

    About the Author

    Jonathan Darman is the author of several books of modern political history, and a former political correspondent for Newsweek who covered the presidential campaigns of John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

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    Becoming FDR FAQs 

    What is the main message of Becoming FDR?

    The main message of Becoming FDR is a vivid account of Franklin D. Roosevelt's rise to power and his transformative presidency.

    How long does it take to read Becoming FDR?

    The reading time for Becoming FDR varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Becoming FDR a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Becoming FDR is worth reading as it offers a compelling exploration of FDR's political journey and his impact on American history.

    Who is the author of Becoming FDR?

    Jonathan Darman is the author of Becoming FDR.

    What to read after Becoming FDR?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Becoming FDR, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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