In the midst of the Jazz Age, while Americans were making merry, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stricken by polio and withdrew from public life. From 1924 to 1926, believing that warm water and warm air would help him walk again, he spent the winter months on his new houseboat, the Larooco, sailing the Florida Keys, fishing, swimming, playing Parcheesi, entertaining guests, and tending to engine mishaps. During his time on the boat, he kept a nautical log describing each day’s events, including rare visits by his wife, Eleanor, who was busy carving out her own place in the world. Missy LeHand, his personal assistant, served as hostess aboard the Larooco. Read more...
While FDR was sailing the Keys, the larger world was glittering. Chaplin, Gershwin, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Gertrude Stein, Frida Kahlo, Martha Graham—all were flourishing in the Roaring Twenties, but so were Stalin, Al Capone, and Hitler. The world went on as Roosevelt fished for mangrove snapper and drank martinis.
Karen Chase presents FDR’s log entries, interspersed with photographs from the tumultuous outer world, to form a kind of timeline between two arenas—one man’s small private life full of struggle and fun, juxtaposed with the large public sphere. Chase gives us a side of FDR seldom seen before, revealing his wit, his penchant for practical jokes, and his zest for each day’s ordinary concerns in the context of his painful struggle to regain the use of his legs.
For many decades FDR’s log has been virtually unknown to the public, appearing only once, in 1949, in his son Elliott’s four-volume collection of Roosevelt’s personal letters. The book also includes a facsimile of the original Larooco log.
“Karen Chase has put together an absolutely fascinating edition of the log describing Franklin Roosevelt’s winter cruises along the Florida coast in 1924-26. Wonderfully illustrated and edited, this is a book that will appeal to historians, FDR aficionados, Floridians, fishermen, and boaters of all kinds. Highly recommended.”
–NATHANIEL PHILBRICK, author of In the Heart of the Sea, Mayflower, and Bunker Hill
“FDR on His Houseboat: The Larooco Log is a wonderfully powerful chronicle of perhaps the most difficult period in FDR’s personal life; the aftermath of the onset of his bout with polio and his enduring struggle to find remedy. In his own words, the Log demonstrates his wit and charm, his embrace of life and friends, his frustrations with his slow progress toward restoration of his legs, and the pain he endures on an almost daily basis. With personal understanding and feeling, Karen Chase has performed a masterful edit of this revealing journal. A fantastic read!”
—DAVID B. ROOSEVELT, Author of Grandmere: A Personal History of Eleanor Roosevelt, and FDR’s grandson
“What a good idea! The little-known record of one of the least understood periods in the life of Franklin Roosevelt, filled with all the grit and gallantry and good humor with which he faced the disease that would have defeated a less resilient man.”
— GEOFFREY C. WARD, coauthor (with Ken Burns) of The Roosevelts: An Intimate History and author of A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt, 1905–1928
“What a beautiful book this is! I know it will be a valuable contribution to the Roosevelt canon.” , —ROBERT CLARK, Director of Archives, Rockefeller Archive Center
Karen’s memoir is a truly remarkable piece of history.
– Olympia Dukakis
In 1954, Karen Chase was a ten-year-old girl playing Monopoly in the polio ward when the radio blared out the news that Dr. Jonas Salk had developed the polio vaccine. The discovery came too late for her, and Polio Boulevard is Chase’s unique chronicle of her childhood while fighting polio. From her lively sickbed she experiences puppy love, applies to the Barbizon School of Modeling, and dreams of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a polio patient who became President of the United States. Chase, now an accomplished poet who survived her illness, tells a story that flows backward and forward in time from childhood to adulthood. Her imagination soars in this narrative of illness and recovery, a stunning blend of provocative reflection, humor, and pluck.