Jerome Charyn has taken the gutsy approach of writing a historical novel in the first person—and it is especially gutsy considering his subject is Abraham Lincoln. Charyn’s purpose presumably is to get a handle on Lincoln’s interior life. I Am Abraham may give you some insight into how the seemingly ill matched Abe Lincoln and Mary Todd ended up together. (But does anyone really know that it was sexual passion that drewand kept them together?) You may gain some sympathy for their son Robert, sometimes disparaged for putting his mentally ill mother into an asylum. You’ll see Lincoln as a doting father—not that he’d been otherwise characterized elsewhere. But you’ll see little of the politician and statesman, and if you’re looking for a cohesive narrative, you won’t find it here. The author drops in on Lincoln at various moments in his life. Particularly frustrating is Lincoln’s leap from Illinois into the White House; you get very little notion of how he pulled that off. You also hear few details of what Lincoln actually did as commander in chief. Perhaps Charyn was figuring that actions have been amply covered elsewhere, so he’d write about thoughts instead. However, unless they know a lot about Lincoln already, readers would be advised not to pick up this book expecting much information. Charyn will take you inside Lincoln’s head but not inside the presidency.
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