BOOK REVIEW: “Going Rogue: An American Life” by Sarah Palin, 432 pages, published by Harper Collins. Reviewed by Gregory Hilton

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has the highest negative rating of any potential GOP presidential candidate, but she certainly is popular with the Republican base. Palin has 1.2 million Facebook fans, and her book, “Going Rogue,” has been a huge publishing success. This $29 book has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for the past 10 weeks, and for six weeks it was number one.
As of this month, sales have topped 2.8 million, and the book is now the 4th best selling political memoir of all time. The three authors above her are Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and Palin is not far behind them. These four political memoirs are the only ones which have sold more than one million copies. Palin has far outsold the memoirs of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Bill Frist, John Ashcroft, Mike Huckabee and Joe Biden.
The book has put Palin right back on the political radar, and Oprah Winfrey calls it “A fascinating read.” Rush Limbaugh says it is “One of the most substantive policy books I’ve read in a long time.”
“Going Rogue” is entertaining and the book talks about her gay college room mate, how she had to pay her way through school, the pregnancy of her 17 year old daughter, her baby that was born with Down’s syndrome, and the $150,000 wardrobe which was lent to her during the campaign by the Republican Party. Her populist streak is appealing and upon becoming Governor she sold the executive jet which was purchased by her predecessor and fired the chef in the Governor’s mansion. She deserves credit for acknowledging her poor performance in the CBS-TV interview with Katie Couric. Palin said she “let the team down” with that interview.
I especially enjoyed the inside stories of the 2008 campaign, but too many attacks were focused on McCain staffers rather than the Obama/Biden ticket. I would not describe this as a substantive work. It is more of a personal memoir rather a political account. Over half of the book is devoted to her life prior to the 2008 campaign. I really wish she had spent more time discussing political issues, and the book does not reveal much about her core political beliefs.
This 432 page book was largely assembled by Christian conservative ghost writer Lynn Vincent in less than four months. Palin kept her promise to those who had pre-ordered copies and it was ready before Christmas. Because of the former Governor’s emphasis on pre-orders, sales hit the one million mark after just two weeks.
The first chapter is the best and it appears to reflect Palin’s down-to-earth style. My guess is that the former Governor wrote the first chapter, but her involvement was only sporadic in the rest of the book.
The section on the origin of species was almost certainly written by Lynn Vincent. Some of the material on Palin’s gubernatorial years appears to have been copied form the State of Alaska website. Vincent is not allowed to discuss her role because of a confidentiality agreement.
Palin could have devoted a year or more to writing a truly substantive account of her life, but she probably made the right choice to enter the market place when her name was so visible. Her prominence was demonstrated when the AP assigned a team of 11 reporters to “fact-check” the book, and of course they found a number of errors.
Part of Palin’s appeal to a conservative audience is that the former Governor is often the number one target of liberal activists. On the day Palin’s book was released last November, the liberal magazine “The Nation” produced a counter publication called “Going Rouge: Sarah Palin, An American Nightmare.” It was a collection of anti-Palin essays with a similar cover.
Palin received an advance of $1.25 million from the Harper Collins publishing firm, and based on the current strong sales she will be able to expect an additional payout of at least $2.5 million and probably closer to $5 million.
Palin is now writing a second book and this will probably be a more substantive review of current issues. Palin will be visiting Arizona on March 26th to campaign for her former running mate. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) faces a difficult GOP primary with former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) and one of the reasons could be because of conservatives who were riled up over the treatment Palin received from top McCain staffers.
The Palin book is also not in the same category as Hillary Clinton’s “Living History,” John McCain’s “Faith of our Fathers,” or Dwight Eisenhower’s last memoir, “At Ease: Stories I Tell To Friends” which was a lively collection of colorful anecdotes which drew a great portrait of the late President. (Hillary Clinton’s 1996 best seller, “It Takes a Village,” was ghost written by Barbara Feinman Todd.)
In my opinion the best memoir from a politician was written by U.S. Grant. His book took the nation by storm, and he finished it just days before his death. It is loaded with thoughtful reflections concerning the Civil War years.
The former Governor’s accomplishments in Alaska were impressive. She appears to well versed on the energy policies which are so crucial to her state’s economy. If she had not resigned, the record she established could have been the basis for a national campaign. Perhaps the book I really want to see will be the one Palin is working on now.
She should review the Obama, Clinton and McCain memoirs for ideas. They all reflect the vision of potential future leaders. “Going Rouge” is Palin’s personal story, and we are still waiting for an explanation of her core beliefs as well as her outlook for America. If Palin is planning a presidential candidacy, the second book should be one of her top priorities. “Going Rouge” does not tell us about Palin’s political future, but as her father once noted, “She’s not retreating, she’s reloading!”

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