A colorful, richly detailed overture to Lincoln’s odyssey.

On Feb. 11, 1861, three weeks before his inauguration, President-Elect Abraham Lincoln boarded a train for Washington, D.C. This lively account describes that eventful journey.

“Lincoln’s safe delivery,” writes Widmer, “would become, over the next thirteen days, a powerful symbol for the survival of democracy in America. As he traveled his circuitous route, Lincoln carried the aspirations of millions on his shoulders. Around the country, they were waiting for him.” No one doubted the occasion’s historical significance, so the train overflowed with reporters, officials, friends, and fans. The author describes Lincoln’s wandering, 1,900-mile journey, with well-wishers lining the tracks and huge crowds whose members clamored to shake his hand and hear a speech. Not every speech was memorable, nor were the many encounters, mishaps, and demonstrations, so Widmer wisely cuts away to deliver histories of the cities and states along the route, their citizens’ reactions to the impending crisis (multiple states had already seceded from the Union), and the impressions of witnesses. Plenty of Southern sympathizers proclaimed murderous intentions, and newspapers published breathless reports of hidden bombs, efforts to sabotage the rails, and cabals of sharpshooters. Concerned railroad officials called on Alan Pinkerton, head of the famous detective agency, whose operatives swarmed over the route and reported numerous plots to harm Lincoln. Widmer is not certain if any competent assassins were at work, but Pinkerton and rail officials had no doubt. They convinced a reluctant Lincoln to depart from his schedule at the end of his trip and travel incognito through Maryland to Washington on an ordinary passenger train. This passed without incident, but news of the furtive journey produced an avalanche of bad publicity before greater events took over. While general readers may lose interest during the journey, Lincoln buffs will undoubtedly devour the book.

A colorful, richly detailed overture to Lincoln’s odyssey.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3943-4

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020


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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