February 21, 1997 at 05:00 AM EST

Dewey Defeats Truman

Current Status
In Season
Thomas Mallon
We gave it an A

You can’t read Dewey Defeats Truman without being reminded of those scrappy but sweet small-town America movies that Preston Sturges and Frank Capra made 50 years ago. In fact, Mallon is so good at directing his own make-believe 1940s movie that it’s almost impossible not to imagine your favorite studio-era stars in the roles. It’s the long, hot campaign summer of 1948. With Thomas E. Dewey a cinch to wallop President Harry S. Truman in the November election, Owosso, Mich., prepares to become world famous as Dewey’s birthplace. The tale centers around Anne Macmurray, a wisecracking clerk at the local bookstore, and her two diametrically opposed suitors — one a young Republican lawyer; the other a union organizer and Democrat. Of course, in a small town we expect scandals and secrets, and we get them: Why does the high school science teacher visit the cemetery every day? How come there’s a light burning at night in an old abandoned mansion? Dewey Defeats Truman is a warm, touching, and richly textured novel; a classic American movie filmed in glorious prose deluxe.

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