...[a] remarkable farewell ... McCain memoirs are a sturdy perennial on American bookshelves — his name appears on the spine of a handful — but this one is different, not least because both he and his outlook (once fairly conventional Republican fare but now described as “maverick’’ because those views no longer are conventional) are in rapid decline. This book is clearly intended to be his last testimony and last political will and testament. In truth, the words, thoughts, and impulses that comprise the McCain testimony once were well-worn cliches ... Today those words, and many others between the covers of The Restless Wave, are frontal challenges to the current zeitgeist.
...a personal memoir that is frank, poignant and ultimately a sobering commentary about the state of American democracy and world leadership ... It is less autobiography and more a hastily assembled commentary on the opening years of the 21st century ... At times, the reader senses these are literally McCain’s dying words. That gives the prose an elegiac quality, though the main impression is of a joyous, obstinate man who delights in tweaking the tails of his political enemies.
The tough-guy titles of their previous books...exhibited an adamant righteousness that The Restless Wave, with its rolling title, occasionally strives for but fails to convey. You can see McCain in this book struggling to reconcile himself to what his Republican Party has largely become, even if he declines to come right out and say so ... One of the striking aspects of this new book is how often McCain — who says his dire medical prognosis leaves him “freer” to speak his mind and vote his conscience “without worry” — insists on playing it safe. The six-term senator from Arizona slips in a few careful mentions of Donald J. Trump, and expresses concern about the rancor that has overtaken the country, but he generally stops short of calling out the president or his cabinet ... Blink and you might miss his critique ... The Restless Wave is a wistful book; McCain wants to rally Americans around helping an imperiled world, rather than accept that the call might be coming from inside the house.
...[a] thoughtful valedictory ... Unlike the previous six books McCain and Salter have composed together, this one wasn’t written for voters. It was written for history ... All politicians self-mythologize. This book is an effort to codify McCain’s maverick brand ... As in any memoir, there is score settling — and lots of I-told-you-so’s ... McCain wants to hold that moral high ground, and he’s peeved by any suggestion that he’s not worthy of claiming it ... At times, the book reads like the travelogue of a globetrotting grandee ... But his book will be remembered for its genuine concern about the future of our republic and the West.
In describing the country, his tone is almost reverential ... History matters to McCain, and for him America is and was about its promise. The book is his farewell address, a mixture of the personal and the political ... a fitting valedictory for a man who seldom backed down.
The Restless Wave is a plain-spoken and often painful personal accounting; a résumé of a contentious career and a defense of controversial political decisions. It may inspire or enrage. But it is less an effort to provoke such conflicting responses than a paean to McCain's idea of America ... The bulk of the book strives to re-litigate the major issues of the past dozen years, both before and after the 2008 campaign ... At its best, the prose in The Restless Wave has some of the terse effectiveness we associate with the 20th century writer Ernest Hemingway.
John McCain’s new memoir is a wistful recounting of his life since 2008 that highlights the political philosophy he nurtured even as it was becoming increasingly outdated in the party that he loves ... McCain’s book is not an act of political revenge against those he opposes, though he has some choice words for Representative Steve King of Iowa and his vehemently anti-immigration views. It is largely a paean to his life in the Senate, his friendships with fellow senators in both parties, and the ideals he has come to embody ... The Restless Wave is not likely to go down in the annals of the great political memoirs of its time, or any other, but it is has its place, and it has something to say.
McCain fully owns both his failures and his successes, makes no excuses, and begs no forgiveness ... It’s worth considering what he has to say. He may side-step some issues, and no one writes a memoir to make themselves look bad, but it’s hard to argue that he is not sincerely considering what’s in the best interests of Americans as citizens of the world ... For those who may be wondering, The Restless Wave contains any number of thoughts on the wrong-headedness of the current administration ... he remains silent on his vote with the entirety of the Senate Republican bloc on a tax plan that is widely understood to add $1 trillion to the national debt. That’s the agenda item I’d really like to hear his thinking on ... My respect for McCain was cemented when he pointedly refused to demonize his political opponent, Barack Obama, in the 2008 presidential race. As improbable as it may have been then, that sort of restraint seems positively quaint these days.
A valediction by the noted senator and presidential candidate ... Sometimes rueful, sometimes defiant, always affecting. Even McCain’s political opponents should admire the fiery grace with which he’s exiting the world.