Old Abe: A Novel by John Cribb. Republic Book Publishers, 2020. Cloth, ISBN: 978-1645720164. $28.00.
Abraham Lincoln’s life and struggles have been told and re-told in a variety of formats and perspectives. This new release—Old Abe: A Novel by John Cribb—is remarkable for its straightforward depictions of the sixteenth president during the Civil War. The novel’s angle, writing style, and historical details will appeal to generations of readers.
Cribb trains his attention on Lincoln’s life between 1860-1865. Even as it foreshadows the tragic end of Lincoln’s life, the novel never takes on an overly dark tone—maintaining a sprite narrative momentum throughout.
The author’s notes reveal careful research and a delicate understanding of the finer points of crafting a fictional story based on a real life and legacy. Cribb helps his readers relate to the president’s difficulties, losses, and search for peace. It is particularly relatable and heartwarming, for instance, to read the scenes in which Lincoln interacts with his family—and attempts to fulfill the roles of husband, father, and comforter.
Animated by compulsively readable prose, Old Abemoves along quickly. Masterfully, the novel presents details from Lincoln’s life prior to 1860, using wartime events to evoke brief flashback memories. Cribb expertly weaves important biographical information into the story without letting minute details get in the way of a good tale.
History buffs will appreciate some of the more obscure historical references, but all readers will experience something of Lincoln’s world. Sights, sounds, and smells are powerfully evoked—from Lincoln’s law office and home in Springfield to the Republican convention in the Wigwam, from the halls of the Executive Mansion to the president’s walks to the War Department and visits to battlefields and hospitals.
In short, Old Abe presents a fictionalized account of Lincoln’s final, momentous years that history buffs and general readers alike can enjoy. The novel is both inspiring and true to the enduring, traditional image of Abraham Lincoln.
Sarah Kay Bierle is the author of several historical novels and, most recently, an account of the Battle of New Market for the Emerging Civil War Series.