The book takes place in the late 1830s when Abraham Lincoln was still a practicing attorney and just entering into politics. His best friend, Joshua Fry Speed, serves as his Dr. Watson during the day and his bed-mate at night. No… I’m not suggesting anything was going on there, nor is the author. I bring this up only because it reminded me that people would sleep in the same bed together back then. As an avid genealogist, I find this entire time period in America fascinating. Disputes over territory with Great Britain, kicking Native American off their land, Whigs and Democrats having duels (remember Burr and Hamilton?). It’s like a rich history lesson and I seem to be on a kick reading several historical fiction novels lately.
In this caper, elections are front and center. When the current Town Land Recorder is killed, it appears like a political opponent had something to do with it. Throw in backstory about Lincoln’s first fiancee (all real!) who died of meningitis, a decade-old feud over who loved her, and Honest Abe’s rough & rude father and step-brother, there are tones of side stories to keep this plot moving along. The pace is good, a fair balance between life nearly two centuries ago and the need for some expediency in action in modern times. The trial was eye-opening. The duel was amusing. But the camaraderie within the primary characters and between the protagonists and antagonists was quite strong.
Resurrection of long-dead actual people as fictionalized characters has been done before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Here it definitely did. This story had a very palpable voice and connection. I could feel the tension between the political rivalries. I could see the respect they still shared for one another (something lacking in today’s leaders) and the differences in how men and women were treated. Putnam paints a good picture of life in America in 1838, and you feel transported to the tenacity people demonstrated to get ahead but still follow the rules. A few people misbehaved, but they apologized and often received fair judgment and punishment.
The book contains an afterthought chapter from the author who describes what is real and what was potentially fictional. I LOVE this part, as I could see where he drew a line in what he would make up or keep strictly accurate. This is the kind of approach I wish other authors would take when writing historical fiction, as sometimes readers like to know where the line has been blurred. Kudos to Putnam for generating some interest in a time period we only ever attribute to the Civil War. There were a lot of expansionist activities occurring in the Midwest during this time period, and the true nature of our political parties beginning to veer off into different directions was taking place. But we also saw the birth of law and trials. The courtship between men and women. And then ways in which people traveled from one part of the land to another.
All in all, a very exciting read. It fit well into my expanding genre selections, showed some opportunity for a great series to explore on the literary forefront, and gave me something analytical with many hidden truths to think about. Thank you for sending this book my way!
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.