Eleanor vs. Ike
In this fascinating alternate history, popular former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is called upon to replace Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in the 1952 election. Eleanor, it seems, is the only Democrat popular and recognizable enough to take on well-known World War II general Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower in the general election. Gerber follows Roosevelt’s uphill presidential campaign from the Democratic Convention, where Stevenson’s fatal heart attack leads to fervent meetings in smoke-filled rooms, to Election Day, where her brief campaign reaches its end.
This is Gerber’s first novel, but it isn’t her first work about Eleanor Roosevelt. She knows her main character’s real life well enough to accurately predict her actions. Roosevelt is, of course, steely and determined, and undaunted by the challenges that face her in the election. Eisenhower is portrayed as genial but a little bit out of his league; his Vice Presidential candidate, Richard Nixon, is as slick and tricky as you might expect.
These were exciting times for American presidential politics—postwar prosperity had gripped the nation, and television was coming into its own as a way to convey political messages. Eleanor vs. Ike has all the drama of a presidential campaign, including speeches, debates, and tours—including one where Roosevelt meets a precocious child named Hillary Rodham. In light of current U.S. political events, this is an especially timely novel, and it shows how little the scenario has changed for a female candidate for the U.S. presidency.