- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Aug 2016
From the cover
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It would likely be unfair and uncharitable (though maybe temptingly ironic) to suggest that Joe Patterson and Alice Higinbotham's brilliant wedding represented the high point in their marriage. For one thing, most marriages—even the discordant and implausible ones, even those that in hindsight might seem challenged from the beginning—are surely voyages with many stops and starts, surprises, sideline excursions, and not all of them unpleasing. For instance, years later a middle-aged Joe Patterson recalled for his twenty-six-year-old daughter, Alicia, that on their Georgia honeymoon his young wife had been "good in the hay," a snippet of information that, among other things, gives some notion of the oddly familiar relationship that came to evolve between father and daughter.
On the other hand, on the subject of that same honeymoon—two young people alone together for the first time, at a resort in the piney woods of Georgia—what the bride mostly remembered (not being one to chat easily with daughters, or anyone else, about "the hay") was the impatience and disapproval of her new husband. "He liked it that I rode," she once told her youngest daughter, Josephine, "but he was down on me for not shooting although I just didn't like to. And he was always scolding me for fussing with my hair and trying to get dressed properly." More tellingly she could sense that he was already becoming bored with her company. In fact, soon after their return he was writing glumly to his mother to the effect that Alice, "in spite of three years at Miss Porter's School," appeared to know little more than "how to read and speak a little in the French language"; indeed, save for "her interest in the decorative arts," he continued, his new wife knew little "in the way of History or Politics"—a deficiency, he said, he was doing his best to remedy by compiling a reading list for her.
In January of next year, as planned, the Pattersons settled into a modest apartment near the railroad tracks in Springfield, then a town of some forty thousand, embedded in the great, flat downstate prairie, far from the familiar sophistications of Chicago. Alice worked at learning to keep house with the help of a Swedish farm girl, who did most of the heavy lifting in an era of washtubs, laundry lines, and weighty hand irons, to say nothing of the chores and crafts of the kitchen. In her free time she tried to get through her mountain of wedding thank-you letters, and wrote almost daily to her mother, who remained doggedly skeptical of the Swedish girl's domestic skills. "Inger prepared a fine breakfast for Joe," Alice declared in one letter, "using fresh eggs obtained from her cousin, although J. was as usual in a great rush to get to his office." Joe Patterson's office was a half mile away in the statehouse, where he was just then the youngest member of the Illinois legislature—a Republican assemblyman from Chicago's Eighth District: a job he'd strenuously campaigned for in the months before his wedding, having come to the conclusion that he could accomplish more in politics than he could as a lowly reporter on the Chicago Tribune in the shadow of his august father.
In the beginning Patterson's experience of statehouse politics was much to his liking—the noisy, often raucous speechifying of downstate politicos, the slow-motion give-and-take of lengthy sessions, and then afterward the late-hours camaraderie and tavern talk, almost like a Yale fraternity without the Yale men. For much of that spring the legislature was occupied with the heated issue of Chicago street railways; at the time there existed dozens and dozens of small,...