It is no secret among my friends and family that I love politics, particularly presidential politics. I can very easily get a little too worked up and I take politics very seriously, so I often avoid the topic with people I don't know all that well or when I know there is no way to keep the conversation sensible. Still, I love the excitement of the political season--the tension, the suspense, the drama.
Paul Harris's The Candidate is an excellent read for anyone looking to indulge in the fun of the political world without the anxiety of real-life consequences. The book focuses on the campaign on Jack Hodges, a political newcomer who is seeking his party's nomination for the upcoming presidential election. Hodges is virtually unknown, trailing far behind the other potential candidates, until an assassination attempt rockets him to the forefront of the public's attention. As Hodges and his staff seize the unexpected opportunity, a myriad of questions remain about the shooter who tried to kill the candidate. Who is this mysterious woman? What reason would a person have to be that angry with Jack Hodges? The person tasked with solving that puzzle is Mike Sweeney, a campaign staffer who left his job to work for a candidate he truly believes holds the key to a brighter future for the U.S.
The Candidate is really Mike Sweeney's story, as it is told mostly from his point of view. Mike is a realistic character, dealing with believable problems and trying to make a satisfying life for himself. Dee Babineaux, Hodges's campaign manager is a character I would like to see again. She is a tough-talking, no-nonsense kind of woman, and I enjoyed the few glimpses into her background and personality. Overall, most of the other characters felt very generalized. I don't feel that I knew enough about any of the characters to really be invested in their stories. Although the premise of the book was a good one and it kept me on the hook to find out the ending, I think I would have liked it a lot more if I had felt any sort of connection to the characters. That feeling particularly holds true as related to Jack Hodges, who we hardly get any idea of at all, other than the repeated mantra of the staffers and voters that he is "a good man" and someone they "can all believe in". Give me details--why is he so fantastic? What, other than the fact that he was nearly assassinated, makes him so special that Mike Sweeney and Dee Babineaux would work round the clock to help him win the nomination? I totally understand why Hodges is not shown to be aligned with a specific political party or a set of policies, but I need to know a little more about him to feel invested in his campaign.
Paul Harris is intimately familiar with the American political process, as he is currently covering his third presidential campaign for British news outlets. There are certainly some elements of previous political campaigns present here, most significantly the heated battle for the 2008 Democratic nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. (Hodges's main opponent is a female, portrayed as having the nomination all but clinched before he comes on the scene.) And intentional or not, I couldn't help but think of James Carville, longtime political adviser, when reading about Dee Babineaux and her Cajun roots.
With just enough material to tie in to real life events without becoming too serious, The Candidate is an exciting, behind-the-scenes glimpse into a fictional political world that is, for many of us, much more fun to read about than our own current political culture.
I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. For more reviews and information about this title, check out the full tour post here.