Willis’s (Gestation Seven, One Was Black and One Was White
) novel of political wrangling and faithless electors imagines the chaos that could ensue following the death of a president-elect before an inauguration. Democratic President-elect John Hornsby Vickers collapses during a press conference and then, three days after his tightly won victory, dies at George Washington University Hospital. Constitutional turmoil ensues, and the race is on to find a substitute, with the party ultimately settling on Brock Henry, the runner up from that cycle’s primaries. But Chance FitzBourne, one of the party’s 272 electors, proves faithless, and two more may have been bought off and vote Republican. The election gets thrown into the House, which debates a motion declaring that the presidency should be awarded “based on the popular vote received by each Party in the state in last November’s Presidential Election.” True to life, chaos ensues -- and the sitting president refuses to vacate the White House.
Plausible and engaging, One Vote
examines its alarming scenario with tension and humor, taking on the Electoral College (one character notes how stupid it is that “People who get a lot of votes in one state can still lose if their opponent squeaks out small majorities in other states”), the choice to nominate a 76 year old with a bad heart, and comparing the machinations of the parties to the process of “selecting heifers to breed.” While fun, the unpolished prose is repetitive and plagued by awkward phrasings and too-frequent typographical errors.
Despite these shortcomings, Willis’ novel offers a cautionary tale worth readers’ attention, especially as Willis convincingly lays out how a candidate could win the popular vote, the electoral college, and still lose the election. “This is serious as hell,” one character notes. Voting is important, and One Vote demonstrates why.
Takeaway: Political junkies should keep an eye out for this cautionary novel about how the death of a president-elect could upset the order of everything.
Great for fans of: Larry Beinhart’s American Hero, Karin Tanabe’s The List
Design and typography: C
Marketing copy: C+