Master of His Fate: Roosevelt’s Rise from Polio to the Presidency by James Tobin

The story of Franklin Roosevelt’s struggle with infantile paralysis is well-known, yet Master of His Fate manages to keep the story fresh by blending historical narrative, medical expertise and psychological analysis. Master of his Fate reads like a well-researched historical novel, and Mr. Tobin’s insightful comments and detailed explanations make this an interesting and easy read for young and old alike.

After he was struck by polio in 1921, thirty-nine-year-old Franklin Roosevelt was singularly focused on one thing: re-learning how to walk. Mr. Tobin effortlessly weaves together politics and disability history; if FDR ever wanted to run for office again, he would have to learn how to get around without scaring people. While FDR rarely talked about his disability, Master of His Fate does a wonderful job conveying the feelings he must have experienced as he tried to regain his health. While it will never be known how much polio truly affected him, there is no doubt FDR was a changed man after 1921, not only physically, but emotionally as well.

Whether you like him or not, there is no denying that FDR’s struggle to overcome polio and become president of the United States is one of inspiration, grit and perseverance. Even though his priorities changed when he re-entered politics in 1928, until the day he died, FDR still held out hope he would one day be able to throw away his cane and braces and walk unaided. If there is one thing we can learn from Franklin Roosevelt, it is to never give up hope, to take charge of your life, to become master of your own fate.

Despite reading The Man He Became, James Tobin’s first book on FDR’s battle with polio, I read Master of his Fate with equal pleasure and interest. One doesn’t have to be between the ages of 9 and 14 to enjoy Master of his Fate; I was actually unaware this was geared towards middle-graders when I began reading. The only give-aways were the shorter chapters and paragraphs, and the way the author addresses the reader. For those who think the material a little too dry for young adults, the book includes many photographs to bring FDR’s struggle to life.

Thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review

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