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Showing 1-10 of 66 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 83 reviews
on October 1, 2014
I loved it. It was beautifully written, and very well-researched. I have never read much of a description of what it felt like to have Polio, and that was very interesting and important to me. I remember some of it; especially feeling the most awful that I've ever felt, but I don't remember all of it so I appreciated that aspect of the book very much.

I recall in '03 when the theory that FDR had Guillain-Barre Syndrome and not Polio first appeared. I felt the people responsible for it did not do their research adequately and did not properly evaluate their information-they just plugged facts into a computer and it came out with Guillain-Barre. That made me incredibly angry. There is, or used to be, an acronym in the computer world: GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out, and that's exactly what I felt this theory to be. If they had made a proper job of it, and if it actually HAD been GBS, I wouldn't have had a problem with it at all.

One of the main props of their theory was the fact that FDR never had a spinal tap, which they would have considered definitive "proof" of Polio. Lumbar punctures in GBS patients have high protein and low white blood cell counts while the spinal fluid in Polio patients is milky white due to the high WBC count. James Tobin found the proof in his research that FDR indeed did have a spinal tap and that the results, along with all of the other symptoms and signs were entirely consistent with Polio.

After the local doctor couldn't diagnose him and 84-year-old famous retired surgeon William Keene mis-diagnosed him, Louis Howe made sure that Polio specialists were called in. He felt Keene was wrong, and had noticed the Roosevelt children starting to have symptoms-none of them went on to paralytic Polio, however. Louis also avidly read the papers and he knew Polio was active right then as well. It's more than likely that the local practitioner, and Dr. Keene had never seen a case of Polio before. The specialists certainly had and knew the symptoms, and all of the little signs in a patient that point to Polio-and, as stated above, felt that everything, including the results of the spinal tap-were consistent with Polio.

The proof that a spinal tap was done was in one of the doctors' unpublished notes. It's not mentioned in the text of "The Man He Became." You have to read the notes to find it. This was worth the entire cost of the book to me. I hope that it kills the erroneous GBS theory permanently, but most likely, it won't.

My only criticism of the Kindle edition is that there are no footnotes in the text. Once you get to the notes, they are actively linked back to that passage in the text, but as you read, there's no indication any passage has a footnote. It makes it very hard to refer to the notes as you read. You either have to read them before that chapter, after that chapter, or after the entire book. That makes the ability to navigate back to that passage in the text very useful and important, because by then, you don't remember what the note refers to.

I can very highly recommend "The Man He Became."
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on December 5, 2014
James Tobin did an excellent job describing the toll polio took on FDR both physically and emotionally. For those who only know the basic facts about FDR and his presidency in terms of his progressive social policies and his leadership during WWII, this is a glimpse into FDR the human being. He struggled with coping with a frightening illness that the medical people of his time were not well equipped to handle. We learn how he dealt with the psychological issues of his changing life including his relationships with his wife and his children. We see how his determination to walk again took him away from his children who struggled with the loss of his presence in their lives. We also see how FDR struggled to keep himself relevant politically when many thought some one with a serious physical disability could not possibly run for or hold an office.
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on November 21, 2014
An interesting read about the part of FDR's life that doesn't get as much attention as the war years. i especially like the detective work the author did to connect all of the random events that contributed to the FDR's polio attack. Could the effect of polio have been lessened or cured had FDR been treated sooner? What kind of man would he have been had he not had to deal with polio? Much food for thought.
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on December 12, 2016
It shows clearly ... The he struggles to overcome realities of Polio...Infantile Paralysis...that was thought to be a children's disease. It was a magnificent story that humanizes FDR, as he works to help others and share the healing, warm waters of Georgia with other Polio patients, many of them children. He clearly proves he is able to be president, despite the Polio. An inspiring, excellent book!
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on March 9, 2016
When I tell people how great this book is, they often respond with "Really? FDR's polio? Do I care?" You care. This book is really well-written and gets to the core of the Roosevelt family and what they went through when FDR was first felled by the disease. It's a gripping story , and the way the medical information is presented is fascinating. I know I just made it sound not particularly fascinating by writing, "medical information," but it is!
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on October 1, 2014
This man was driven. He had as ocean of personal strength and drive that facilitated his battle against polio . His approach towards his illness was inspirational. Indeed, the disease help construct who he became. Well worth the read.
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on August 28, 2014
James Tobin has delivered a powerful and very insightful account of the singular event in FDR's life that not only challenged him, but made him a better man.

This is a page turner. Tobin gives us useful information on polio. In the first of the book, we are taken from the possibilites of how the virus moved and inflicted Roosevelt when he was 39 years old and at the peak of life. The tragedy unfolds as he becomes very sick with the onset of the malady, and the old and trusted family doctor totally misses the diagnosis, allowing the lower limbs to become further destroyed as precious time goes by.

FDR has always been somewhat of an enigma. There was never a more capable politician, and he could not only charm his company but persuade an entire nation when he put his mind to it. So here, in the summer of 1921, he is taken out by the polio virus and, as many thought, his political career was done. After months of frustration, hopes dashed, pain, different treatments and the stunning reality that as Churchill described "his lower limbs refused their office", FDR became his own man, was drawn to Warm Springs Georgia and envisioned a treatment center that would help all victims of polio, many of whom were children.

But while polio took him out of the limelight of politics, the silver lining of it all was that it removed him from the bitter infighting of the Democratic party for a good part of the 1920s. By 1928, he was ready to run for governor of New York, was able to effectively campaign with the help of some brilliant and devoted friends, and won the election, while the former New York governor, Al Smith was crushed in the presidential election by Herbert Hoover. It was the end of Al, and when the depression hit, it was the end of the line for Hoover. Tobin takes us through all of this in a manner that keeps your attention and refuses to allow you to stop turning the next page.

FDR was also brilliant in not using this as a source of pity. You can see him marketing himself as a man of strength. Indeed, his upper body was very strong and he was proud of the size and strength of his arms and chest.

There is also a very interesting observation by the author that FDR overcame polio but could not overcome cardiovascular disease, and really was not a fit candidate to run for the fourth term in 1944. We were indeed lucky that for whatever reason, he choose Harry Truman as the vp that election year. On his first meeting with FDR, Truman said that the president poured the tea and most of it went in the saucer instead of the cup. It was also interesting to me that FDR and so many of the prominent men of that time were heavy smokers, and many paid for it with eary deaths.

On a personal note, I live in Hickory North Carolina, where about the time of the DDay invasion, an epidemic hit this area and the hospitals in Charlotte refused to take new patients. THe residents of this town came together and made a slapped toegether hosital by the lake and admitted the first polio patient in 52 hours. Doctors and nurses came into Hickory and worked without pay. One family bought and gave an iron lung for the hospital which was the equivalent of the cost of a new home. I know people who had polio and overcame it as well.

And finally, I am an admirer of FDR and cannot leave this page without recounting the story by another biographer that when Roosevelt was running for president (it was the first or second term) a mill worker in a mill town in North Carolina made the statement "Franklin Roosevelt is the only candidate that understands that the man that owns this mill is a son of a bitch." I could agree with that. I grew up in a mill town.
This is a great book.
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on June 7, 2016
Poignant story and a very easy to understand description of how our immune system works and how the polio virus circumvented it. I never understood his relationship with warm springs until I read this book -- and now have far more compassion for this great president
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on October 13, 2014
Thought-provoking, insightful, and well-researched take on a well-known historical and political figure from a different perspective. Thanks to this well-written work, I gained a new appreciation for FDR's tenacity and ambition, yet his personality continues to be, in many respects, an enigma.
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on December 20, 2013
This book combines a medical mystery with a political thriller. We watch a horrible disorder seem to ruin the life of a promising politician. Then we watch the politician fight to conquer not only the ravages of the disease but public perceptions of his ability to lead. The politician becomes one of history's greatest statesmen, not only despite polio but partly because of it. No book I have ever read is a better example of the old saying, "It's not what happens to you in life that matters. It's how you deal with it." Everyone who has faced adversity should read this book.
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