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Abraham Lincoln stands tall in American history annals. We all know the story of his rise in politics from humble origins to his death at the hand of a bitter Southerner. We know of his widow and his children as well as the ones he freed in the rebel states and the push to end slavery. But what of the ones who knew him long before history? How did the average man see him? And how did history impact them?
This is the story told mainly through the viewpoint of a young Portuguese girl who found Springfield, Illinois a new home after being pushed from her homeland. When the reader is not seeing this small city through her eyes, they are viewing the world through that of a young, freeman descended from runaway slaves. They interact with the Lincoln family and see them as normal people. Yes, they were humble, but they were a normal family with emotional issues, family troubles, and even financial concerns. But the story goes so much further than that.
From the title, you’d think the story was just about the family life of the Lincoln family. While we get a glimpse into that, the story is more about the world around the Lincolns in Springfield. How did the laws in place impact those who lived there? How about how the war impacted those of color and those who claimed superiority? I think we naively think that everyone in Springfield stood beside the President on all his decisions as it was the town he called home. They didn’t. Many resented his Emancipation Proclamation and took matters into their own hands in the form of rioting and lynching mobs. What the war was fought over wasn’t cut and dry even in Lincoln’s town. Everything about the war and the issues surrounding it was muddied. It was complicated, and it turned everyone’s lives upside down.
We think our world is perfect when we are children and even into our young adult years. Then something happens to rip the rose-colored glasses from our eyes. In the book, it was the rioting in Springfield that showed the young girl turned mature woman that everyone did not get along and held deep grudges that would lead to the death of innocent people.
I would go on about how well the writing was or how the characters developed in ways that kept me hooked. But I took something else away from this fictional story. I took it personal. I saw how I viewed my world and when I was disappointed in its inhabitants. The book made me step back and view my own small world and the social and political actions going on now. How will history view this? Will it be forgotten? This is even brought up in the book. How right the character was in thinking that all the horror would be forgotten. And how it shouldn’t have been.
A wonderful read that will keep you reading until the end and still be wanting more. A haunting story that will inevitability move you to your very soul.
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