Joe McGinniss surpasses my expectations for this long-awaited book, which documents his return to Alaska–site of his 1976 best-seller, “Going to Extremes”–this time to explore the state’s Idaho-born ball of thermonuclear fission that is named Sarah Heath Palin. Those who’ve been following the linguine-like tangles of the Palin saga still will find a great deal of new and fascinating information, presented in McGinniss’ engaging, can’t-put-it-down fashion. Even if you haven’t been paying attention to Sarah Palin at all, The Rogue will knock your socks off.
McGinniss speaks to many of the individuals on the record who have been bent, folded, spindled, and mutilated by Palin in power, including former Wasilla mayor John Stein, former Alaska public safety commissioner Walt Monegan, and ex-Alaska state senator Lyda Green (Chuck Heath Sr. reportedly inquired winsomely of Green before her retirement, “Why don’t you quit now, you fat old cow?”). From his first days in Wasilla, McGinniss experienced first-hand the reign of terror and lunacy that was set into action by Palin’s election as mayor in the mid-’90s. He also recounts dozens of acts of hospitality and kindness, having been offered a WELCOME sign, state flag, keys to the houses of total strangers, blueberry pie (“I figure Sarah Palin didn’t get around to it yet,” which she hadn’t), freshly caught fish, festive dinners of yak burgers and yak loaf, and innumerable firearms. McGinniss declined only the guns. The state of Alaska is a character in this book as well, described with tenderness and exasperation, like a family member. It’s easy to see why people fall in love with the place–and why so many residents, documented by McGinniss, are disgusted to have the image of their state co-opted by someone who quit her job to cash in on being a semi-professional Alaskan.
The lack of an index is my only quibble about this fine contribution to my Palin shelf. Read it alongside Geoffrey Dunn’s “The Lies of Sarah Palin” for as close to a complete look at a unique American figure that one can find… as of this writing.