Book Review: Sarah Palin’s “America by Heart”

When I pick up a book, the thing I want most is to feel that the author has invited me on a journey, one where I can see, hear, and almost touch the world the writer has awakened. Sarah Palin’s America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag does just that.

The writer’s voice is warm and welcoming. The tone is optimistic and patriotic. And the writing style is uncluttered and forthright. Palin presents the American values she holds dear through a blend of personal stories and excerpts from writings that have inspired her. Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Milton Friedman, Abigail Adams, Margaret Thatcher, Booker T. Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and Martin Luther King, Jr., are some of the historical figures whose words are brought to life through Palin’s text.

In Palin’s own words, America by Heart is “my view of America and what has made her great. It’s the ideas our country was founded on. It’s the strength of our families. It’s the grit of our national character. It’s our faith in God, how it has shaped our nation and continues to fortify us as a people.” She honors America’s Founders, our Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution through such reflections as “The difference, with our Constitution, is those three little words: We the people” and “The Constitution’s relationship to the family, then, was meant to be reciprocal: to depend upon the virtues of family life to make its system of government work, while protecting the freedom of families to create self-governing citizens.”

Palin declares “the fundamental wisdom of the Tenth Amendment,” discusses some of Hollywood’s positive and negative contributions in the way of American values, and highlights a new feminism that honors both our God-given rights and courageous founding feminists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She stresses the importance of a strong American work ethic that “gives you wings” and rejects a culture of entitlement: “Everything that is worthwhile comes through effort. There is no free lunch. Anybody who tries to tell you otherwise is selling something – usually something paid for by your tax dollars.”

Woven through it all are her belief in American exceptionalism, her reverence for our military, her prioritization of personal responsibility, and her confidence in the fact that “The American people have a principled wisdom that all the lawyers and academics and schooled-up ‘experts’ in D.C. fail to appreciate.” Her profound faith shines through via powerful, yet simple statements like “The timing or the circumstances may not be perfect, but God sees a way when we cannot, and he does not make mistakes.” And her love for her family and the bond they share is unquestionable: “During the vice-presidential campaign, people would ask me how I could expect to balance it all if we won the White House. I thought, they really don’t get it. I don’t balance anything. We do it together.”

Finally, it is Sarah Palin’s character – the woman behind the political titles, TV spots, and public speeches – that one comes to know through America by Heart. When she speaks of Harriet Tubman, she is humble: “Her wonderful little prayer is a good reminder to those of us with less courage and less strength that we can accomplish more if we just do the same.” Humility surfaces again when Palin reveals that amid waiting for Trig to come into the world, worrying about Track’s decision to enlist in the Army, and other preoccupations, “I assumed that Bristol was making only wise decisions while staying with my sister in Anchorage. I kick myself to this day for my selfish assumption. I made a mistake.” We’ve all been there, for sure. And although our circumstances may have been different, the sentiment certainly hits home.

Readers also get a peek into the woman who “gave up chocolate for an entire year – from January 1 to January 1 – just because I wasn’t sure I could do it,” a woman who reveals that on days when she heard from her son from Iraq, “Todd and I would think, okay, Associated Press, New York Times: Write what you want. Take your best shot. It doesn’t matter. We heard from our son today and he’s okay. Nothing else matters.”

Sarah Palin makes no apologies for her faith, her belief in “commonsense constitutional conservatives,” or her commitment to the values that built this country. But there’s nothing angry about her writing, nothing haughty. And because of her approach and the honest life lessons she shares, my guess is that even some who rally against her politics will discover a lot of themselves in the family, faith, and flag she treasures.

America by Heart will resonate with many Americans in much the same way as the author who gave it life: with a strong, real, likable voice that speaks from the heart.

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