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Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1st edition (February 8, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805041230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805041231
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the early 1980s, politicians got a lot of mileage out of reading--or noisily claiming to have read--Gore Vidal's biographical novel Lincoln. Now pols wanting to lay claim to the 16th president's mythical integrity have another book to add to the shelf. In Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln, Richard Slotkin sets out to discover the very roots of Lincoln's politics. And this American Studies professor goes for the deep roots: In the first chapter, Abe listens to his mother tell him the story of "how Moses would grow up tall, and whup the man that whupped the children, change the serpents to sticks and break the sea so the children could get over, and home to their milk and honey..." Young Abe founders when he loses his adored mother and sister to early death, and sets off on a river journey to New Orleans.

His character is formed--and his notion of America--as he travels from the North to the South. Along the way he forges an uncompromising, difficult friendship with Sephus, a slave. Slotkin handles this relationship deftly, allowing it complexity and avoiding any off-key Noble Savage notes. Here he underplays the men's first handshake, a physical acknowledgment of their uneasy equality: "Without thinking Abe put out his hand. Sephus looked at it. Then gave it a quick shake with his big dry sandy-palmed hand, turned, and went to call the men to supper." Nor does Slotkin make his hero a saint. Right afterward, "Abe was embarrassed. It was thoughtless to shake hands like that. If the others seen him, they'd give him the laugh." In the end, of course, Abe returns to the North and runs for office. In the meantime, Slotkin has given us a rough Lincoln, one who accepts and provides no easy answers. --Claire Dederer

From Kirkus Reviews

Historian (Gunfighter Nation, 1992, etc.) and novelist Slotkin (The Return of Henry Starr, 1988; The Crater, 1980) offers an impressively detailed re-creation of the early years of our myth-enshrouded 16th president. In a leisurely narrative that spans the years 181032, Slotkin portrays the ungainly Abe as both the muscular ``rail-splitter'' of popular legend and a conscientious autodidact who patiently endures his unhappy father's exploitation of his physical strength, while slowly absorbing learning but without formal schooling (``At fourteen the boy could read and write as well as a growed man needed to, and his ciphering not far behind''). We observe the Lincoln family's hopeful moves from Kentucky to Illinois to Indiana, and a colorful succession of experiences that challenge Abe's courage and wit, as well as steadily shape his character: the death of his beloved ``Mam'' from the virulent ``Milk-sick'' epidemic; a vivid account of the hunt for ``a wounded hungry mean smart angry bear''; misadventures in the ``Gin Sang'' (i.e., ginseng) trade; a revealing acquaintance with socialist Robert Owen's experiment in communal living at ``New Harmony,'' Indiana; andin the long sequence that's the real heart of the novela journey by flatboat down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans, featuring encounters with bibulous Shakespearean actor Junius Brutus Booth, slaveholding vigilante ``Regulators,'' and numerous defenders and enemies of the institution of slavery itself: the moral quandary that, we infer, will raise its head again as Abe begins his career in local politics, earning fame as a debater and beginning to take an interest in lively young ``Annie'' Rutledge . . . at which point the story (perhaps to be followed by a sequel?) ends. Slotkin does stack the deck rather obtrusively, contriving one scene after another that emphasizes the dawning of the idea of full equality for all men in Abe's churning mind. That objection aside, this is an absorbing, highly satisfying historical fiction: an appropriate culmination of Slotkin's obviously herculean researches, and his best yet. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Lance Mannion on March 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
To write a book with Abraham Lincoln as the main character you'd think the authour would have to be crazy, arrogant, or incredibly naive. Richard Slotkin doesn't appear to be any of these. He has gone about making an epic work of fiction out of the growing up years of our greatest president in a sane and thoughtful manner, with a humility and an honesty that match Lincoln's own, and though not at all naive Slotkin seems to have been inspired by all the angels of our better nature. The passages where he shows how the Bible lessons the boy Abe received from his mother formed both his mind and his habits of speech are just beautiful. This is a poetic book and an exciting one.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lou Pagano on September 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A highly enjoyable book. Even though it's a fictional account of Lincoln's early years, Slotkin is able to make you feel as if you are actually there, witness to Abe's boyhood and early adult life. I highly recommend this book to anyone that would like to read fiction as a change of pace to some of the more detailed works on Mr. Lincoln.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Richard E. Hourula on July 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
Want a supposition on Lincoln's life as a young man? Look no further. Want an entertaining historical novel? Here's your book. Want a snapshot of life along the Mississipi River in the early 1800's? You've got it.
Slotkin's novel succeds as three different types of book. Most of all its great entertainment. Not only is Lincoln an engaging and interesting character, but so are all the other folks we met, including, Finneus, the father of John Wilkes Booth, America's first Shakespearean actor.
Much of the book is factual, much probable and all of it possible. Whether a student of Lincoln, or early US History or just interested in a good read, "Abe" fits the bill.
"Abe" has been compared to Twain's story of Tom Sawyer's river travels. Not fair. This is even more exciting and features historical figures.
I've been a compulsive reader for over 30 years and this is one of the best books I've ever read.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John on April 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have been an admirer of Lincoln since my family and I visited Washington D.C. when I was ten years old, and I gazed up at the statue of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial looking as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders but would prevail even if it killed him. As, of course, it eventually did.
Since then I've read numerous biographies and histories of that time, but none have really dealt with Lincoln's childhood. Lincoln was not, except for snippets such as his closest childhood friend going insane and the fear that engendered in him, very forthcoming in either public or private papers.
I read this book because I saw Richard Slotkin on Book TV (not a plug but check it out), and it was clear that he had thouroughly researched Lincoln's early life and based his fiction on what he read.
This book reminds me of the quote, although I can't remember who said it, "The child is the father of the man." I'm no big fan of historical fiction, but this book will hold a treasured place in my library.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on October 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Brilliant! As a Lincolnphile I have read the good, the bad and the ugly about Lincoln, and Sandburg aside, this is the first book that, for me, ever brought Lincoln to life! Do not miss this opportunity to treat yourself to a literary masterpiece. Slotkin puts you inside Lincoln's skin, and carries you along with the raging passions, and incisive intellect of a great man in the making. More please. More.
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