If I had to describe Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue: An American Life in one word, I’d be in trouble. I need at least five: Predictable, surprising, touching, captivating, and Palinesque.
Predictable: Before I cracked the book open I was convinced it would give those of us who like Sarah Palin 10,000 more reasons to like her, and those of them who hate Sarah Palin 10,000 more reasons to hate her. I was right. (As a result, most other reviews are quite predictable, too.)
Surprising: Honestly, I expected it to be a little bit dull, as most political memoirs tend to be. But it wasn’t. I found myself reading the whole thing from cover to cover without skipping or skimming.
It’s not because the writing is stellar. Far from it; many of its metaphors ought to have been euthanized in the early stages to spare everyone’s feelings, like “I had seen our state speeding toward an economic train wreck” (page 3). And speaking of train wrecks, how about this disaster on page 96: “I began commuting into Anchorage five days a week, driving headlong into a learning curve that would deepen my knowledge of Alaska’s energy resources, the energy problems facing the country, and the close relationships clouding judgment on both.” Yikes.
Touching: At this point I must confess that while reading Going Rogue I fell in love with Sarah Palin’s father, Mr. Chuck Heath. Who could resist a man who tells a “Trig Truther” (one of that obnoxious band who said the governor covered up a daughter’s unwed pregnancy by raising a Down syndrome grandchild as her own) “I know Trig is hers, dumbass. I was there when he popped out!” and met with Henry Kissinger at the Republican convention wearing a pro-Alaska t-shirt? And the way Ms. Palin weaves her family into her narrative gives the clear impression that this is one strong and happy family. And more power to them. There’s enough fake smiles in politics; the Palins are refreshingly real.
Captivating: This woman has an amazing ability to keep you reading, despite the mostly just adequate writing style and the fact that I already knew a fair bit about her story. I don’t know who deserves credit for this (she did have help putting the book together), but there was not one of those unnecessarily tedious moments the French call “longueurs”.
Palinesque: This is the magic ingredient, the thing that turns what would otherwise be an ordinary political memoir into a publishing phenomenon (at the time of writing, the book had sold 1 million copies, two weeks after publication). The book is independent-minded, unconventional, stubborn, self-reliant, unapologetic, aggressively normal, unabashedly patriotic and almost barracuadesque in its defiance of establishment rules. Sarah Palin prides herself on being a strong independent woman who won’t be told to sit down and shut up. Her book is very much like that. The Palin fans on your Christmas list will enjoy this book mightily. It kicks some serious patootie.
Yes, you say. Splendid. But why should the world care? Love her or hate her, we knew she was like this. So what makes this book worth the paper it’s printed on?
This passage, from the epilogue: “As I write this, Commonsense Conservatives are out of power in D.C. But that does not discourage me. I think of Reagan in 1976, when his conservative politics and his political future were declared all but dead. How did he turn things around in four years? By speaking to ordinary Americans about the ideas that bind us together.” This is what her book is for: It’s her way to start talking to people, to tell them what she believes in, what she stands for, and to give them a fairly decent idea of the kind of woman she’d be in office. It’s the beginning of her campaign, not unlike Ronald Reagan’s famous speech, “A Time for Choosing,” at the 1964 Republican convention.
Oh yeah, you bet I think she’ll run. And why not? America is a wonderful country where anyone, including the son of Kentucky farmers with no formal education, can become not only a president, but a great president.
Sarah Palin has the guts to do it, she has instincts about the purpose and role of America similar to those of Ronald Reagan (another candidate serious people ridiculed as unqualified), she has great morals and she’s one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever read about. She has beaten the odds more than once before, and after reading her book, I can think of no reason why she can’t do that again. And honestly, lacking the kind of credentials that make professional opinion-makers happy, how much worse could she be than “normal” politicians?
It may not work. But I expect her to give it all she’s got, in true Palin style. And she’s got plenty.
Brigitte Pellerin is an Ottawa writer and one of the women behind the group blog, ProWomanProLife.org