It’s one of the more beguiling questions in history. What if John F. Kennedy had survived assassination and gone on to finish his first term, perhaps even winning a second? It’s a question that, obviously, we can’t ever really know the answer to, but it is fun to speculate, especially if the person doing the speculation is a good, well-informed writer who seems to know what they are talking about. Greenfield is that sort of writer.
In this book, the point of departure for history involved rain not clearing up. In our history, it had been raining in Dallas, but it stopped early enough that JFK went out in an open top vehicle. In this book, perhaps because of a butterfly in Brazil, the rain continues, and the protective canopy is put onto the car. As a result, when the bullets fly, Kennedy is grievously wounded, but survives.
From that point we progress into 1964 and beyond. The book explores things I didn’t know, like an investigation that had been focusing on Johnson right before the shooting. It also creates interesting versions of the elections in 1964 and 1968 (though frustratingly, we don’t learn who won in ’68. I’m guessing Humphrey). We also get to see Kennedy wind down the Cold War and pull out of Vietnam, which is about the only thing he pulls…oh, never mind.
The book doesn’t lionize JFK. He’s also shown selling out on the Civil Rights Act, at least initially, and it also showcase his adultery and his drug use. I liked that the book takes a balanced approach to the man.
The book also creates a wonderful view of a very different late 1960s. Without Kennedy being assassinated, and without Vietnam becoming a thing, Americans are a lot more optimistic. There is still, for example, a counter-culture, but it takes a different form.
Overall, I really liked this book. I feel that the changes the author suggest are very plausible, and that’s always important in alternate history. The fact that it’s an interesting read is icing on the cake.