The host of NPR's Morning Edition tells the story of John and Jessie Frémont, the husband and wife team who in the 1800s were instrumental in the westward expansion of the United States and thus became America's first great political couple.
Throughout this volume are vivid descriptions of the American landscape ... But Inskeep’s most powerful descriptions are of the man at the center of his story ... astute ... Steve Inskeep has performed a great service—to the Frémonts, and to history.
... absorbing ... Inskeep...deftly traces how the marriage mirrored the era’s ferment ... Vibrant and propulsive, Imperfect Union is by far Inskeep’s strongest book, reminiscent of work by Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jon Meacham. Inskeep re-creates the darker currents beneath Manifest Destiny while rescuing John and Jessie from the margins of history, seeing them as precursors to the epic struggles ahead ... a pure delight to read, but beneath Inskeep’s stylish sentences lurk astute insights, illuminating the outsized role celebrity plays in our culture, the outward triumphs and quiet pain it inflicted on two lives that left an indelible, if neglected, mark on our politics.
... revelatory ... a fresh look that brings 21st-century vision to bear on the 19th-century story. In writing about both Frémont and his wife, Jessie, the aggressive promoter of his career, Inskeep does two important things. He shines an unsparing light on his subjects, and he finds unnerving similarities between the Frémonts’ America and our own ... To Inskeep’s credit, it’s an open question whether the book’s true hero is Frémont or his wife ... Regardless of where your sympathies lie regarding the slippery Frémonts, there’s no denying the new importance Inskeep has given them ... written in a streamlined, occasionally biting style that successfully pares down potentially sprawling material and sends constant warnings that history can repeat itself. There’s not a lot of showiness here, but the material suffices. If the book’s purpose is to illuminate and chill, mission accomplished.