Review by Booklist Review
With each inauguration a new ex-president is instantly created, a celebrity who goes from the center of the world's attention into a new life devoid of the cosseted Executive Mansion existence--no more Air Force One, no more being waited on. Ex-presidents lack formal Constitutional status in the American governmental system, but they hold a certain moral sway and have contributed much to the nation's welfare. Brower (The Residence, 2015) looks to currently living ex-presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama and the late George H. W. Bush to learn how each constructed a life after the White House. This team of five also brings forward an auxiliary team of spouses who often verbalize opinions they had to repress while in the White House. Brower does not deny partisan politics, but she finds an overarching spirit of camaraderie among those who've borne the office's burdens. Based on what Brower has learned from the past, she guardedly and generously tries to anticipate how Donald Trump will fare when he eventually joins this tiny fraternity. Insights into presidential life beyond the rancor of everyday politics will make this a very popular read for the general public.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Journalist Brower (The Residence) examines the post--White House lives of Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama in this illuminating and anecdote-laden account. Opening with an Oval Office interview with President Trump (in a "buoyant, exuberant mood" after the release of the Mueller Report), Brower then lists the "unwritten rules" that guide relationships between ex-presidents ("avoid criticizing the sitting president at all costs"; "come together for celebrations") and details "unexpected friendships" between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush (former first lady Barbara Bush called them "the odd couple") and between George W. Bush and Barack Obama. She describes the processes of transferring the White House from one occupant to the next and of building a presidential library, and quotes former first ladies and presidents on the surreal experience of returning to civilian life. Though Trump once "desperately wanted" to earn the approval of his predecessors, Brower writes, he has since "disparaged all the former living presidents" and seems unconcerned "that he will be an outcast from the Presidents Club." Brower maintains a light touch throughout, highlighting moments of accord rather than division and offering little in the way of analysis. Presidential history buffs will enjoy this respectful peek into one of America's most exclusive clubs. (May)
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Former presidents find ways to reinvent themselves. Five presidents witnessed Donald Trump's election: George H.W. Bush, his son George, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Journalist Brower, contributor to CNN, Bloomberg News, and CBS News, strains to find commonality among them aside from their inhabiting the Oval Office and refraining from criticizing the men who succeeded them. "Though we hail from different backgrounds and ideologies," Bush I once remarked, "we're singularly unique, even eternally bound, by our common devotion and service to this wonderful country." Despite Bush's comment, Brower presents no evidence for anything other than "a sense of empathy for each other"--no Team of Five (Four, now that Bush I has died), no Presidents Club, although the past presidents do assemble for events such as a state funeral or the opening of a presidential library. The author's research included a visit with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, speaking with Laura and Barbara Bush, and sitting for one interview with Donald Trump; she also interviewed more than 100 aides, family members, and White House residence staff. Most anecdotes and gossip, though, seem derived from published news articles, memoirs, and biographies. All reveal the diverse paths these men, and their first ladies, followed once they left the White House. Clinton missed drawing a crowd but soon took to the podium, earning hefty speaking fees. The Obamas vacationed lavishly and received huge advances for their memoirs. The Carters devoted themselves to their philanthropic Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity. Brower includes Truman, Nixon, Ford, and LBJ in her purview as well. Among the topics she considers: how each presidential family handled the transition to and from the White House, redecorated their new homes, dealt with the "astronomical" cost of presidential libraries, prepared or sheltered their children from being in the public eye, and reacted to Trump's strident criticism. A digressive, unsurprising overview of presidential afterlife. (two 8-page color inserts) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.