This novel's prologue opens with a meeting between President Lincoln and his oldest son, Robert, after Lee's surrender at Appomattox, and swiftly moves to Lincoln's assassination. The book then travels back to 1831 and the years Lincoln spent in New Salem, taking on a slow, steady pace through the years as Lincoln becomes a lawyer, weds Mary Todd, and is elected President of the United States. More than half the book is dedicated to those years the country was at war.
I Am Abraham is not, however, a typical story about Lincoln. Using Lincoln's own letters and speeches, Charyn portrays a complex man who is besieged on all sides. Whether being hired out by his father, manipulated for political reasons, or trying to manage his child-wife, pressures often bring about the "blue unholies," like he first suffered after the death of Ann Rutledge. This is Lincoln brought to life like never before.
Though some of the language in the earlier chapters caused reservations (see here), in the end, I must admit this is the most riveting, intimate, and compassionate portrayal of Lincoln I've ever had the pleasure to read. The extensive research Charyn must have performed is evident in the rich descriptions and plentiful details that add so much to this story. Lincoln's visit with his son, Tad, to war-shattered Richmond only days before his assassination is so vividly portrayed, I could see it in my mind, almost smell the charred ruins of the city and the death that surrounded them.
Charyn is a masterful storyteller, bringing Lincoln's voice to a deeply personal story of the man who led this country during some of its darkest days. I highly recommend I Am Abraham.
Prices/Formats: $12.99-$14.99 ebook, $26.95 hardcover
Release: February 3, 2014
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Jerome Charyn is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him "one of the most important writers in American literature." New York Newsday hailed Charyn as "a contemporary American Balzac,"and the Los Angeles Times described him as "absolutely unique among American writers." Since the 1964 release of Charyn's first novel, Once Upon a Droshky, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture. Charyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American University of Paris until he left teaching in 2009. In addition to his writing and teaching, Charyn is a tournament table tennis player, once ranked in the top 10 percent of players in France. Noted novelist Don DeLillo called Charyn's book on table tennis, Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins, "The Sun Also Rises of ping-pong." Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.
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I received a copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.