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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

#NetGalley Audio Book Review: Old Abe by John Cribb

I totally enjoyed this although there is sadness of course.
Old Abe: A Novel
by John Cribb
Narrated by Gary Bennett

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Length: 11 hrs and 7 mins
Release date: 06-01-21
Publisher: OrangeSky Audio
Genre: Biographical, Historical Fiction
My Rating: 4.5 of 5.0 Overall; Content 4.5; Narration 4.5.

Old Abe: A Novel recounts the last five years of Abraham Lincoln’s life, the most cataclysmic years of America’s history. We are at Lincoln’s side on every page of this vivid novel as he presses forward amid disaster and comes to life once again fighting to save the country. The story begins in the spring of 1860 in Illinois and follows Lincoln through his election and the calamity of the Civil War to his assassination at the height of power. During the war, he walks the bloody battlefields of Virginia and Maryland. He peers down the Potomac River with a spyglass amid terrifying reports of approaching Confederate gunboats. Death stalks him: one summer evening, a would-be assassin fires a shot at him, and the bullet passes through his hat. At the White House, he weeps over the body of Willie, his second son to die in childhood. As he tries desperately to hold the Union together, he searches for a general who will fight and finds him at last in Ulysses S. Grant. Amid national and personal tragedy, he struggles to find meaning in the war and bring freedom to Southern slaves. Central to this novel is a love story—the story of Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s sometimes stormy yet devoted marriage. Mary Todd Lincoln’s strong will and ambition for her husband have helped drive him to the White House, but the presidency takes an awful toll on her, and she grows increasingly frightened and insecure. Lincoln watches helplessly as she becomes emotionally unstable, and he grasps for ways to support her. As Lincoln’s journey unfolds, Old Abe probes the enduring character and spirit of America. This story portrays Lincoln not only as a flesh-and-blood man, but a hero who embodies his country’s finest ideals. Set amid America’s most devastating tragedy, Old Abe captures the triumphs and defeats of one of the greatest leaders in US history, the one who set a divided country on track to become a great nation.

I was captivated by this historical fiction from beginning to end. I had to remind myself that it is fiction although I have little doubt that it is based on journals, notes and other historical support. Mr. Cribb makes Abe Lincoln a very real, beleaguered man who struggles with his leadership responsibilities while he leans on faith in God as well as a little bit of mysticism.

It has been years since I studied the Civil War so some of the details seemed new to me. The time frame is short, being the presidential election through the assassination and funeral. Everything focuses on Abe Lincoln, his personal thoughts, his family, friends in his cabinet and the pressures and stresses that challenge him.

I really wasn’t aware that President Lincoln had to deal with so much negative criticism and name calling, although it makes sense considering the divisions of the times. I also did not recall how fragile, and at times, unpleasant, Mary Todd Lincoln was. I had an Aunt who was devastated by the loss of a young son and Mrs. Lincoln had to cope with the loss of two. The deaths are a reason for extreme grief but no justification for social ineptitude, out of control spending for social impressions, and ugly personal interactions. I was sad to think Old Abe had to cope with these issues close to home while facing the severe issues of civil war, political pressures and threats of assassination. Of course, knowing how the story would end, expanded my sadness.

I was impressed how Mr. Cribb made the story so real to life. I loved the depiction of Old Abe’s relationship with his sons. The author also provides good insight on President Lincoln’s mindset and determination to save the Union, “… the last best hope” for freedom. I appreciated the inclusion of Frederick Douglas and his meetings with President Lincoln. I also liked the scenes of Lincoln interacting with political opponents, the different Union Generals, Confederate prisoners, and men and women in the street. I recommend this story to anyone who enjoys Civil War history.

Audio Notes:
Gary Bennett does a good job with the narration. He provides a solemn delivery with voices that fit the characters. I am glad that I had the opportunity to listen to this.

Source: NetGalley 2021. This qualifies for 2021NetGalley, 2021Audio, and 2021Alphabet goals.

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