A layered, nuanced work demonstrating the mingling of “the cataclysmic with the routine.”

Universal responses to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln—black and white, North and South, incredulous, gleeful or vengeful—make for grim yet engrossing reading.

With meticulous scholarship, Hodes (History/New York Univ.; The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century, 2006, etc.) presents a plethora of people’s intimate reactions to the assassination of Lincoln on April 14, 1865—Good Friday, just days after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. The country was reeling from the blood bath of the Civil War, and with 2 percent of the population mowed down, death had touched nearly every American household, North and South. The news of the first assassination of an American president—a beloved one who was looked on as a father to the torn, suffering nation—sent shock waves through the country in the spring of 1865. People scribbled their grief into diaries and letters, and Hodes uses the reactions of three protagonists as a “template for broader investigations”: a couple of white abolitionists from Salem, Massachusetts, who were horrified and stricken by the assassination; and a Jacksonville, Florida, lawyer, Rodney Dorman, whose relish in the murder of the president allowed him to vent his anger and disgust at Union occupation and black emancipation. Lincoln’s death galvanized emotions about the war and fears for the future of the nation, especially for African-Americans, who wondered whether their freedom would now be jeopardized. Was the assassination a vast Confederate plot to seize power? Yet Lincoln had been lenient toward the vanquished Southerners, and newly acceded President Andrew Johnson was notoriously ill-disposed toward the rich Southern planters. From reactions by Mary Todd Lincoln to the fiery racist Copperheads, Hodes shows the uneven responses of a nation certainly not “united in grief.”

A layered, nuanced work demonstrating the mingling of “the cataclysmic with the routine.”

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-300-19580-4

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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