I Am Abraham: Book summary and reviews of I Am Abraham by Jerome Charyn

I Am Abraham

A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War

by Jerome Charyn

I Am Abraham by Jerome Charyn X
I Am Abraham by Jerome Charyn
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Book Summary

Narrated in Lincoln's own voice, the tragicomic I Am Abraham promises to be the masterwork of Jerome Charyn's remarkable career.

Since publishing his first novel in 1964, Jerome Charyn has established himself as one of the most inventive and prolific literary chroniclers of the American landscape. Here in I Am Abraham, Charyn returns with an unforgettable portrait of Lincoln and the Civil War. Narrated boldly in the first person, I Am Abraham effortlessly mixes humor with Shakespearean-like tragedy, in the process creating an achingly human portrait of our sixteenth President.

Tracing the historic arc of Lincoln's life from his picaresque days as a gangly young lawyer in Sangamon County, Illinois, through his improbable marriage to Kentucky belle Mary Todd, to his 1865 visit to war-shattered Richmond only days before his assassination, I Am Abraham hews closely to the familiar Lincoln saga. Charyn seamlessly braids historical figures such as Mrs. Keckley - the former slave, who became the First Lady's dressmaker and confidante - and the swaggering and almost treasonous General McClellan with a parade of fictional extras: wise-cracking knaves, conniving hangers-on, speculators, scheming Senators, and even patriotic whores.

We encounter the renegade Rebel soldiers who flanked the District in tattered uniforms and cardboard shoes, living in a no-man's-land between North and South; as well as the Northern deserters, young men all, with sunken, hollowed faces, sitting in the punishing sun, waiting for their rendezvous with the firing squad; and the black recruits, whom Lincoln's own generals wanted to discard, but who play a pivotal role in winning the Civil War. At the center of this grand pageant is always Lincoln himself, clad in a green shawl, pacing the White House halls in the darkest hours of America's bloodiest war.

Using biblically cadenced prose, cornpone nineteenth-century humor, and Lincoln's own letters and speeches, Charyn concocts a profoundly moral but troubled commander in chief, whose relationship with his Ophelia-like wife and sons - Robert, Willie, and Tad - is explored with penetrating psychological insight and the utmost compassion. Seized by melancholy and imbued with an unfaltering sense of human worth, Charyn's President Lincoln comes to vibrant, three-dimensional life in a haunting portrait we have rarely seen in historical fiction.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Charyn has managed to craft a fictional autobiography that rings emotionally true." - Publishers Weekly

"This is another fine novel by a very good author who has a proven track record of attracting readers of all persuasions. What's not to like?" - Library Journal

"The portrait of Lincoln readers get is characterized by emotional and psychological complexity, for he's a reluctant candidate, a caustic commander in chief and, at times (understandably), a diffident husband." - Kirkus

"I Am Abraham is not only the best novel about President Lincoln since Gore Vidal's Lincoln in 1984, but it is also twice as good to read." - Gabor Boritt, author of The Lincoln Enigma and recipient of the National Humanities Medal

"Brooding, dreamlike, resonant, and studded with strutting characters, I Am Abraham is as wide and deep and morally sure as its wonderful subjects." - Brenda Wineapple, author of Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compassion: 1848-1877

"If all historians - or any historian - could write with the magnetic charm and authoritative verve of Jerome Charyn, American readers would be fighting over the privilege of learning about their past." - Harold Holzer, chairman, Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation

This information about I Am Abraham was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Jerome Charyn Author Biography

Jerome Charyn was born May 13, 1937 and is the author of more than fifty works of fiction and nonfiction, including Cesare: A Novel of War-Torn Berlin; The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King: A Novel of Teddy Roosevelt and His Times; In the Shadow of King Saul: Essays on Silence and Song; Jerzy: A Novel; and A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century. Among other honors, his novels have been selected as finalists for the Firecracker Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Charyn has also been named a Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture and received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in New York.

Link to Jerome Charyn's Website

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