Celebrating the President’s “B-Day” with Some Historical Fiction & Giveaway – I Am Abraham by Jerome Charyn (Book Review)

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

Many thanks to the author and Tribute Books for providing me a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Historical fiction lovers will adore Jerome Charyn’s latest novel, I Am Abraham.  Drawing on historical documents, letters, and speeches, Charyn incorporates and intermingles true historical characters and events in Lincoln’s life with fictional details flushing out an imposing, but troubled man.  Told in the first person as Lincoln, I Am Abraham tells the story of the life of Abraham Lincoln from his childhood in Illinois to the days just prior to his untimely end in the Ford’s Theater.

Charyn utilizes poetic license to dig into specific character details and humanistic flaws that cannot be deciphered of Lincoln from historical documents alone.  Depression and relationship angst shape the title character of this novel creating a portrait of a man commonly referenced, but uncommonly truly described with respect to personality and individual traits.  The result is a gripping novel destined to receive a great deal of comment and review.  An excellent resource for encouraging youth that have been overrun with dry classroom history books to pursue a deeper understanding of history and recognize that all men even the historically great ones are not without worldly trials and tribulations!

On a personal note this is my first Charyn novel and I’m delighted to discover that one of my favorite historical figures, Emily Dickinson is the subject of another of his books, “The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson.”  If you take the time to read this work I would love to know your thoughts.  Feel free to comment below 🙂

Buy Links: 

Amazon  | Barnes & Noble

About the Book:

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 Abrahamhews 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.

About the Author:

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.

Author Links: 
Website  | Facebook  | Twitter

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  1. says

    It was wonderful to wake up in Washington, DC, just a few blocks from the White House site of many of the novel’s scenes, to read your delightful review.

    From the first line: “Historical fiction lovers will adore Jerome Charyn’s latest novel,” I knew JC had a kindred spirit – and so does AL himself! Thanks for celebrating Lincoln’s birthday with the author as well as your readers – including me. – Lenore

    PS: Last night we pre-launched the novel in the Lincoln family’s summer home, Lincoln’s Cottage. And tonight JC is speaking in America’s premier political bookstore, Politics & Prose – join us if you’re in the DC area.

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