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Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America Paperback – April 11, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
The first part of the book is Ferguson traveling to various Lincoln sites solo -- e.g., Richmond, Chicago, and Springfield Illinois. The second part is a forced family journey to sites involving Lincoln in Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana as Ferguson tries to recreate the family journey he took as a child.
The book is very well done with funny moments (the anti-Lincoln convention and the Lincoln reenactors convention are great examples) and sad and melancholy discussions (the new disneyfied Lincoln experience in Springfield and the transformation of Lincoln in the Chicago Historical Society). Through it all Ferguson is a a shrewd and understated observed who allows his interviewees to state their cases with little or no comment by Ferguson.
Ferguson is clearly a well-educated on the topic of Lincoln and Lincoln Historiography and the book cleary is a labor of love.
I'd recommend the book for "serious" and casual Lincoln buffs as well as non-buffs looking for an entertaining, funny, and insightful read.
Suffice it to say, that most of my Lincoln books offer a favorable look at the grisly old man, savior of our nation, and that's what I prefer. When another book pops up on the surface, needless-to-say, I consider buying it to add to the library. So it was with great flourish, and immediacy, that I just found Andrew Ferguson's new Lincoln book Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America and within minutes, was standing in line purchasing it. Two hours later, and I've read it. And what a joy this book is!
Andrew Ferguson's take on Abe is a quest for the truth of Lincoln, not a mythologized superhero, sent by the Heavens to wash the scourge of slavery from the continent, but a real life man, flaws and all. Ferguson goes to the "Lincoln" places in America, to investigate how he has or is being portrayed by the various locations: both positive and negative.
Ferguson starts off his book dealing with a controversy I had barely heard about, but seem to remember: the placement of a Lincoln statue in Richmond, VA. Ferguson doesn't shy away from the controversy, but goes to live in it and what's more, understand it. He talks with the men who, with thinly veiled, inferred racist beliefs, wish to paint Lincoln as a warmongering industrialist, whose only goal was to ride roughshod over the defenseless, agrarian South. Attending both a pro and anti-Lincoln conference, Ferguson decries both as unreal, and charts the goal for the rest of his book: to unearth, uncover the real Lincoln.
Ferguson's writing style is both information and brisk. He is honest in his love for Lincoln, and how he lost it, and began to recover it through this book. Sometimes, in reading books like this, the story becomes more about the author and less about the subject matter. No worries. Ferguson steps out of the way at times and let's the story shine through.
And what a story he tells. This is a wonderful book for any weekend historian, Lincoln enthusiast, or someone itching to get into our country's history a little bit more. If you liked Assassination Vacation or Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War, you'll adore this book. Does Ferguson achieve his goal: yes, in his own way. The Lincoln he unearths is real, bawdy, human, and alive. He also drives home a new point: the Lincoln each of us loves is the Lincoln we all see in ourselves.
While the author's telling thoughts on such diverse topics as conventions of impersonators; business leadership workshops; family vacations; urban planning; the National Park Service; and museum displays are not the fodder for traditional presidential histories, this is a book well worth reading. At its core, it is a heartfelt appreciation for a great man.