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The Middle Generation

The classical era of American history began with the Revolution and ended with emancipation. Between these bookends lies the absorbing yet overshadowed epic of a new nation spearheading liberty’s cause in a world skeptical of freedom arriving at all, much less in slaver’s garb. 

 

M. B. Zucker takes readers back to that adolescent country in the care of an enigmatic guide, John Quincy Adams, heir to one President by blood and another, Washington, by ideology. Adams is the missing link between the founders and Abraham Lincoln, and is nigh unanimously regarded as America’s foremost Secretary of State. Through Adams’ eyes, readers will experience one of history’s greatest and most forgotten crises: his showdown with Europe over South American independence, the conflict which prefigured the Monroe Doctrine.

With his signature dialogue and his close study of Adams’ 51-volume diary, M. B. Zucker’s The Middle Generation is a political thriller and character piece that surpasses his achievement in The Eisenhower Chronicles and ascends to the cinematic heights of the historical epics of David Lean and Steven Spielberg.

It is an unforgettable portrayal and a leap forward for one of our rising historical fiction novelists.

"This captivating read offers an insightful portrait of one of the most important figures in American history: John Quincy Adams. The author's ability to portray the distant, flinty Adams, as a flesh and blood human being represents a remarkable achievement. This is historical fiction at its best, for the characters who animate Michael Zucker's novel ring true from the first page to the last. 

Zucker's novel is full of vibrant portrayals of all the key figures from the so-called Era of Good Feelings, including James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John C. Calhoun, and Henry Clay. The Middle Generation: A Novel of John Quincy Adams and the Monroe Doctrine is an entertaining and enlightening read that all students of historical fiction and of American history will enjoy."

-Stephen F. Knott, former Professor of National Security at the Naval War College and the author of Coming to Terms with John F. Kennedy

 

"M. B. Zucker goes well beyond a story of simple political intrigue. He offers one of the most moving literary portraits of a President I have ever encountered."

-Dr. Jeffery Tyler Syck, Author of The Revolution of 1828: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and the Origins of American Democracy

 

"John Quincy Adams is one of a small group of presidents whose major achievements to his country preceded and followed his time in the White House. In this splendid account of Adams’s years as Secretary of State, Michael Zucker, a rising star in the area of historical fiction, recaptures JQA’s extraordinary vision and true greatness."

-Alvin S. Felzenberg, Presidential Historial and Author of The Leaders We Deserved…Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game

"In M. B. Zucker’s The Middle Generation, readers are plunged into an era of American history that often remains relegated to the footnotes of textbooks, despite its pivotal nature. Anchoring the narrative is John Quincy Adams. Through his eyes, the chaotic politics of early 19th century America come alive, presenting a vivid tapestry of ambition, compromise, and ideology.

Zucker’s command over the era is evident in his rigorous attention to detail. Yet, despite the depth of the political backdrop, at its core, this novel is a tale of human frailties, ambitions, and emotions. The internal struggles of Adams, as he grapples with familial pressures, self-doubt of his popularity, and the weight of a nation's expectations, add layers of complexity to an already intricate plot.

One of the novel's standout qualities is its rich character portrayals. The dynamics between the many historical figures portrayed drive the narrative forward, highlighting the personal animosities, alliances, and betrayals that shaped the politics. Readers should be prepared for dense passages filled with political machinations and extended dialogues. While these sections may challenge the casual reader, they remain essential to understanding the nuances of the time.

Zucker's portrayal of the women of this era, particularly Adams' wife, offers a window into the social fabric of the period. While politics might have been a man’s world, the influence and resilience of women were undeniable. The intricate social dance of hosting and attending parties, combined with the intense pressure of Washington's social circle, provides a fascinating counterpoint to the po
litical intrigue.

The conclusion reaches a crescendo during Adams' race for the presidency—not to be missed. The Middle Generation is a must-read for those who revel in the intricacies of history and the eternal drama of human ambition."

-Kat Christensen Blog

"In The Middle Generation: A Novel of John Quincy Adams and the Monroe Doctrine, M. B. Zucker elegantly crafts a historical fiction narrative spotlighting the life and times of John Quincy Adams, one of the notable Presidents of the United States. Set against the backdrop of 1817, the tale plunges us into the heart of the White House, where Adams, serving as Secretary of State, aids President James Monroe in navigating the pressing diplomatic challenges of their era. Readers are introduced to eminent figures like Andrew Jackson, John Calhoun, and Henry Clay. Zucker also paints a compelling depiction of Adams’ wife, Louisa, highlighting the intricacies of balancing domestic responsibilities with public duty.

This meticulously researched novel not only provides a deep dive into history but also offers an engrossing portrayal of dialogues and deliberations involving European dignitaries like Lord Castlereagh, George Canning of Britain, and Metternich, the Austrian Foreign Minister. Taking information from Adams’ personal diaries, Zucker is able to immerse readers into the past and experience the conversations with these famous people from history. Themes such as the contentious issue of slavery are tackled with nuance, illuminating the diverse perspectives of that period.

While the novel is dialogue-rich and action-light, it offers a reflective experience that may resonate more with readers who appreciate a deep exploration of characters and their conversations. I yearned for a deeper insight into John Quincy Adams by the story’s conclusion.

The Middle Generation will undoubtedly resonate with enthusiasts of American political history, offering a fresh perspective on a crucial chapter of the nation’s past. This engaging work of biographical fiction provides readers a look at the life of this often-overlooked political figure."

-Literary Titan

"Not knowing much about John Quincy Adams I couldn’t wait to dive into this novel and at the beginning we meet him in a cabinet meeting with President Monroe another president not truly well-known but as the book goes on we see not only the pressure he puts himself under put the pressure to be a success in his father‘s eyes and although he sacrificed his family to do it I don’t think he was much different from any other father of the time. Although his father only served one term as president he expected much more from his son something he wouldn’t deliver but he still is a president to be respected and admired for his stance on slavery and the rights of indigenous people An at a time where instead of party affiliations people were more tied to their geography and their stance on slavery. Again that was something he was definitely against. And I don’t want to end this review without mentioning the John Quincy Adams was an advocate for Scientific advancement in learning in many ways he was a man ahead of his time and although out of his four children only one was successful having had one die in infancy and his other two sons to die from alcoholism George Washington Adams would’ve made his father proud since reading this book I have learned he was a prolific diary Journal or wrote in his diary‘s daily something else mentioned in the book I love when a good book compels you to read another and that is what this novel has done and although most of the dialogue was made up by the author I thought you did a great job setting a historical atmosphere and she seemed well-versed in the verbiage of that time. Although when Mrs. Adams tells young Charles to stay healthy he should avoid me I did find that statement dubious but again it was made up by the author irregardless this was still a top-notch read and one I totally loved and found hard to put down a truly great five star read."

-5 Star Amazon Review

"I have great admiration for John Quincy Adams, the protagonist of The Middle Generation. I was captivated from the first page when I realized that Zucker had not only written about the great JQA, he had done so in first person from John Quincy's point of view!

How exciting!

And how intimidating! I have toyed with the idea of writing a novel about Dolley Madison, but I hesitate when I think about being tasked with writing dialog for the Great Little Madison. How could I sufficiently enter that amazing mind? So, I was enthralled to see how this author had done so with one of the most accomplished statesmen of the nineteenth century.

The book opens with Adams in a cabinet meeting where he is the smartest person in the room. He is always the smartest person in the room, and like most men who find themselves in this position, he knows it. I laughed to myself at his observations of Treasury Secretary Crawford (whose presidential candidacy I'm sad to admit James A Hamilton supported). It was a great start that sets the stage for the intellectual story interspersed with Adams snark that this novel promised to be.

We also see the more personal side of JQA, and how he holds his family to the same high standards to which he holds himself. This habit, inherited from his own parents, is damaging to relationships and many of the Adams clan that turn to alcoholism to escape it, but John Quincy, like his father before him, demands perfection.

When John Adams informs his son that he "must" achieve the presidency - and hold it for two terms, JQA feels the pressure even as an adult at that time serving as Secretary of State.

"It was now an issue of life and death. Failure would destroy me and my family. A disgrace for generations. Through history. My name synonymous with shame."

This just before Abigail rings in with her own dig at them both, "Yes! We shall have a two-term President in this family."

And you thought you came from a dysfunctional family!

This novel is introspective. It serves to give access to the reflections of John Quincy Adams to those who will never read his volumes of diaries. Having read some of the entries that have pertained to my own research, I believe Zucker has retained the character of JQA in the thoughts and dialog he has written for him. And there's lots of dialog. As is appropriate for a novel about JQA, more time is spent in conversation than in action, and those discussions take place with all of the biggest names of the day: Monroe, Calhoun, Clay, and a variety of foreign diplomats.

The reader gains an appreciation for the work of Secretaries of State that often gets little attention or respect. JQA worked tirelessly to gain the US status as a strong, independent nation, and he had a vision for his Presidency that would have benefitted Americans if they hadn't been so obsessed with the authoritarian brute they elected to replace him instead. Adams was, like many great men before him, too far ahead of his time.

This novel ends before he fully realizes that, with his inauguration and hopes still intact. Maybe Zucker will write more about JQA. I'd love to follow him through his presidency and the defense of the Amistad captives - those years where he fully recaptured any virtue he might have feared lost through his partnership with Clay.

I wish Americans were more interested in these formative years of the early 19th century. If you are, I recommend picking up this book."

-5 Star Amazon Review

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