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One Soldier’s Story: A Memoir

Author: Bob Dole
Publisher: Harper Perennial • 2006 • 289 pages

This affecting memoir chronicles the Republican senator’s arduous coming of age through the early 1950s. After a poor but for him idyllic childhood in Russell, Kans., Dole arrived at college and then the army during World War II a sunny, callow young man; his letters home—many reprinted here—are preoccupied with Mom’s cooking, college sports and fraternity hijinks.  The story darkens and deepens when he is sent to Italy and, near the end of the war, gravely wounded by a German shell blast that leaves him all but paralyzed with spinal cord damage and a maimed shoulder.

The bulk of the book is taken up with Dole’s agonizing three-year convalescence. His restrained but poignant account details his painfully slow struggle to regain the use of his legs and arms, the strain put on his family by his physical helplessness and his reluctant coming to terms with the ruin of his once handsome and athletic body.

The book is very much a political autobiography, full of tributes to faith, family and hard work, but the harrowing experiences that put these ideals to the test elevate Dole’s memoir above mere boilerplate.

Book Review from Publishers Weekly

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