The farmboy and the debutante.

He was a farm boy, the descendant of Missouri pioneers. She was a debutante of the New York aristocracy. On April 12th, 1945, her husband and his boss, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, died in office. Mrs. Roosevelt summoned Vice-president Truman to the White House and said, “Harry, the president is dead.” “Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked, and Mrs. Roosevelt replied, “Is there anything we can do you? For you are the one in trouble now.”

Thus begins a correspondence that will last until their deaths, here collected by editor Steve Neal to give the reader a top-of-the-heap, behind-the-headlines look at the end of World War II, the Marshall Plan, the creation of the state of Israel, public versus private schooling, Eleanor’s opinion of the British (not high, wait till you see how she tells Harry to handle Churchill), Harry’s opinion of American hate crimes against Japanese Americans (he’s damn lucky this letter wasn’t released to the public back then), and much more. Eleanor is at first a little patronizing, a little arrogant, and more than a little disingenuous in many protestations of “oh you don’t have listen to little old me, but as long as you are…”

Harry is at first a little defensive, a little impatient, and more than a little dismissive of Eleanor’s opinions, particular of people she wants in office and he doesn’t. By his second term, Harry has grown into his new job, Eleanor has grown into hers, and they both grow into what eventually reads like a friendship of sincere mutual respect and even affection.

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