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A Rogue autobiography

Book review | Palin account is about more than vote-getting

Issue: "Homegrown terror," Dec. 5, 2009

I wasn't eager to read Sarah Palin's Going Rogue (HarperCollins). Most political autobiographies are boring because the candidate is afraid to write anything that might lose a vote, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the first half is vivid and revealing. Palin (helped by WORLD senior writer Lynn Vincent) describes her Alaska childhood, her teenage years, meeting Todd, working her way through college, eloping (and rustling up a couple of witnesses from a nursing home), and having babies. Meanwhile she was developing her Christian faith and a libertarian-leaning political philosophy that eventually led her into local politics.

Some readers are more interested in Sarah Palin, national political candidate. They will probably focus their attention on her score-settling with some McCain campaign staffers. I understand why she felt she had to defend herself from anonymous attacks, but that part of the book seems old, although she does include some weird tidbits: For example, McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt was apparently concerned that Palin was on the Atkins diet and told her to stop, adding that the campaign was going to bring a nutritionist on board to teach her how to eat.

For those who do want to relive the campaign, Palin explains the Katie Couric interview, the wardrobe fiasco, and the way old Alaskan rivals jumped at the opportunity to trash her. She writes fondly of the B team (her vice presidential campaign staff) and continues to be loyal to McCain but fires away at the handlers he assigned her. Even before the book's official debut on Nov. 17 they were firing back, as were mainstream media: The New York Times disparaged the book in a headline as mere "payback to McCain campaign."

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Reading Going Rogue, it's easy to see why many conservatives like Palin. She seems real (only with more energy). She's had children nearly her whole adult life and she's worked most of that time-often at more than one job. She's operated largely in a good old boy world and done it while embracing motherhood: Feminists should at least offer grudging admiration, since you don't have to agree with her politics to admit that she's pursued her dreams, often against considerable odds. The book describes movingly Palin's two miscarriages, the unplanned pregnancy in her 40s-and then learning that Trig would have Down syndrome.

Judging from early reviews as well as comments on Amazon.com, liberals will not give her a fair shake or even acknowledge her compelling saga as long as she is a potential national candidate. Conservatives might overlook some of her weaknesses because she is such a refreshing change from the typical senatorial blowhard. Both sides should enjoy her as an American and Alaskan original.

Maverick sells

By 2:40 p.m. on the day it was officially released, Amazon.com was already calling Sarah Palin's Going Rogue "one of our bestselling nonfiction books of 2009." HarperCollins announced the same day that it was going back to press for an additional 100,000 copies-bringing the total number in print to 1.6 million.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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