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I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  320 ratings  ·  84 reviews
Since publishing his first novel in 1964, Jerome Charyn has established himself as one of the most inventive and prolific literary chroniclers of the American landscape. Here in I Am Abraham, Charyn returns with an unforgettable portrait of Lincoln and the Civil War. Narrated boldly in the first person, I Am Abraham effortlessly mixes humor with Shakespearean-like tragedy, ...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published February 3rd 2014 by Liveright
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3.57  · 
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 ·  320 ratings  ·  84 reviews

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Ruth Hill
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Let me begin by prefacing this review with the following:
1. Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president.
2. I have not read Bill O'Reilly's book about Lincoln, but I have seen the film.
3. I also saw that Lincoln film that came out last year.

I don't recall when my interest in Abraham Lincoln began, but I know I was quite young. I couldn't get enough of Civil War history, and I was always intrigued by President Lincoln. When I began reading this book, I was completely engrossed. In some ways, my "rush
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the Lincoln novel I've been waiting for.

Now, full disclosure: I haven't read Gore Vidal's Lincoln, which I've heard is the gold standard. But I have read several pieces of fiction surrounding Lincoln (or Mary Todd), and they have ranged from pretty satisfactory to NO GOD NO KILL IT WITH FIRE. So I am really excited that this book was so good.

Charyn decided to tell the whole novel from a first-person perspective, taking on the task of replicating Lincoln's unique style of speech. This he
Rare is it for any reader to chance upon a novel that succeeds beyond expectation in eliciting his/her excitement and capturing his/her interest with the first sentence or paragraph. Well, 'I am Abraham' is such a novel, richly told and largely spoken in Lincoln's own voice.

Lincoln goes on to take the reader back to his humble beginnings in New Salem (Illinois), where he arrived penniless and poor, yet hungry to improve his lot in life. In all, he spends 5 years there, going from serving as a s
Elnora Romness
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Oftentimes we lose the man to the legend. We build up so much story around a historical/political/whatever-al figure that we forget who the real person was....or that So-and-So was a real person. Nowadays figures in the public eye can - and have - fire back, defending their personality and true self. When that figure is someone who perhaps had one of the biggest stamps on the history of the nation, but has been dead for over a hundred years, his or her ability to fight off critics is lessened (w ...more
Tony Laplume
Dec 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The first thing you think, if you've ever been lucky enough to have read Jerome Charyn previously, is that I Am Abraham seems a lot like, well, a Jerome Charyn novel.

I haven't read enough of Charyn, but I've read enough where the general pattern of his fiction emerges. He might almost be considered the condensed version of Thomas Pynchon. If his books were ever made into movies, they would be directed by Quentin Tarantino (Charyn wrote a biography of him, by the way, Raised by Wolves, which ends
Michelle Miller (True Book Addict)
Jerome Charyn can always be counted on to put forth an interesting and entertaining work of historical fiction. Like its predecessors, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson and Johnny One-Eye, Charyn takes a novel told in first person to a whole new level. His first person point of view makes the reader feel as if they are the character...seeing and experiencing everything vicariously.

Abraham Lincoln is a historical figure that I have always greatly admired. In I Am Abraham, the man comes to life.
Feb 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
I just can't with this book. I'm giving up - and I rarely do that. In fact, it took me 3 tries to finally quit reading it, I hate that much to quit a book, but I managed it - right around the time when I read Abraham Lincoln referring to masturbation as "pulling on his root" and then calling his ejaculate "jelly". JELLY. I'm no prude, but for some reason my brain just can't reconcile ABRAHAM LINCOLN saying things like that. Another example - calling a certain part of a woman's anatomy hair pie. ...more
Mary Narkiewicz
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
According to Kindle, I have read 22% of the book. Very vivid poetic imaginative prose, the first chapter ends so poignantly with the sting of the bullet as it strikes Pres. Lincoln's head.

I decided I'd rather read nice paper books rather than books on Kindle or E reader.. It's more dreamy to be able to flip pages back and forth , finding things, checking back.. But I have read a few books on Kindle.. Somehow it doesn't have the same impact.. I might need to get a copy of this book a real b
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
‘I Am Abraham,’ by Jerome Charyn
By Richard Brookhiser FEB. 21, 2014

No president has written as well as Abraham Lincoln. He could thrill, reason, prophesy, mourn and crack jokes. Who wouldn’t want to read a book in his own words — all the more enticing if it scanted the political and administrative minutiae that fill his collected works and gave us a window into his inner life?

Even if Lincoln hadn’t been murdered, he would never have written such a book. For an often garrulous man, he was notorio
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My Thoughts:
I've always had a fondness for Abraham Lincoln because we share the same birth date, February 12. I'm proud to tell people I was born on Abraham Lincoln's birth date. It's odd that I've never read a non-fiction book on Lincoln. A historical figure that I admire so much, you would think I'd read a biography of his life. I have read another historical fiction book on Abraham Lincoln: The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy O'Brien. The theme of this book is in solving Lincoln's murder.
In h
Apr 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
I want to start by saying that I have had an interest in Lincoln since I was a kid. So I am always interested in reading/watching anything I can about the man.

I was at Ford's on April 14th this year. I saw this book in the gift shop. It seemed that this was selling the best. It sounded like it might be interesting. So I checked it out from the library as soon as I got home.

I felt so-so about the beginning. I thought it would get better. Then I began the actual novel...

The first part of this book
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Abraham Lincoln's life has never been an ordinary one. From the moment, he could walk, he's done his best to assert himself. He's never been satisfied with lot he's been dealt, and is always seeking something greater. So much so, that when the moment came for him to leave his life at home behind, he fled and never looked back.

Forced to confront his inner demons, Abraham comes to the realization that no matter he does, the depression he feels will always hound him. He knows he needs to let it go,
Cheryl Malandrinos
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This novel's prologue opens with a meeting between President Lincoln and his oldest son, Robert, after Lee's surrender at Appomattox, and swiftly moves to Lincoln's assassination. The book then travels back to 1831 and the years Lincoln spent in New Salem, taking on a slow, steady pace through the years as Lincoln becomes a lawyer, weds Mary Todd, and is elected President of the United States. More than half the book is dedicated to those years the country was at war.

I Am Abraham is not, however
Lenore Webb
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Well once again Jerome gives a voice to one who can not share on his own. Reaching in and extracting the deep depression that plagued Lincoln then balancing this with the deep need to share with the love of Abe's life, Mary, this story is as deep as the crevices on his face. You see the ghost that taunt the President as well as his wife. Having lost children, tormented by the war that felt unending and turned into pawns by the political system, these two would cling to each other than break apar ...more
Aug 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
For me, this book was a waste of time, until I finally just stopped reading it. I know that every president, including Abraham Lincoln, is human and not always a moral or political paragon. But the treatment here is disturbing and frankly, disgusting. Did not like.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
1-star and 5-star. Very good and very bad.

5-star for making some details of this time period come alive in ways that most authors are not even aware of. You feel the surroundings, the politics, the agony and fear, and even the heart of Lincoln. Even though some details may seem crude, they make you see the individual suffering rather than general details about suffering. Yes, soldiers because of disease, lack of accommodation, fear and the automatic release of the bowels at death, did "shit" in
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jerome Charyn has written a compelling novel about the life of Abraham Lincoln. Rather than just reciting a series of dry facts, the story comes alive through the mechanism of a first person narrator, Abraham himself. The book covers the period from Lincoln's life starting out as a young man to the end of his life.

Abraham had nothing with which to make his way except his own willingness to work and scrap by. He fought as a young man to get an education, thwarted whenever possible by his father.
Mike Cuthbert
Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Jerome Charyn starts his novel of the Civil War at Ford’s Theatre in April of 1865. It ends in Richmond, a few days before the theatre engagement. He also chose to write it in first person so the title is logical and apt: I Am Abraham. It is a historical novel with a few added characters for plot and body but his profiles of the real characters—Mary Todd, Elizabeth Keckly, Grant and especially McClellan—are spot on and effective. Like me, Lincoln didn’t trust nor like George McClellan for approp ...more
Beverly McClure
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The president of the United States presents a certain image, an image that does not always tell the people the whole story of the man. When we read each of the president’s stories, we discover that they have many of the same problems other people have. They make mistakes; they face challenges and sometime win, sometimes lose. Author Jerome Charyn’s novel, I AM ABRAHAM, A NOVEL OF LINCOLN AND THE CIVIL WAR, paints a picture of Abraham Lincoln, a man with faults and doubts about his own abilities, ...more
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Charyn has a pretty impressive resume but even impressive authors write clunkers now and again. I can’t speak for all of his books but I can promise you that I Am Abraham is every bit as good as I would expect from an author with Charyn’s background. I can’t say that the book is without flaws and I can say that there will definitely be readers who don’t like this book but it is really good and it offers readers unique insight into the life of Abraham Lincoln and his family.

The thing about histo
Clarissa Simmens
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an unrecognizable Washington, DC. There is no resemblance to the pilgrimage we US students take by senior year in high school. Like Abraham Lincoln, Jerome Charyn is also a “prose poet” and has described a period of history that would have been surrealistic to modern people, at best. There is nothing more I can say. One needs to experience the story, so I will give you the author’s words and hope that you feel the powerful scenes, see the anguish of Lincoln, and decide to read and enjoy ...more
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
There's no sympathy here for the Lincoln's. The President is portrayed as a blundering, ineffectual husband and father. An even harsher light is shown on Mrs. Lincoln. I came away from this reading with the feeling that I'd peeked into the Lincoln's private lives, somewhere I wasn't invited. Perhaps Mr. Charyn's first line in his acknowledgements explains this "I never liked Lincoln". In spite of the new affinity he finds with Lincoln via their shared "hypos", I don't think he likes Lincoln (or ...more
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Want to know what life was like on the Illinois frontier in the 1830s, Washington street life during the Civil War, the city of Richmond immediately after its fall? How about life as a president, husband of a scheming, self-centered wife with a feeble grasp of reality and father of three trying children? Charyn's prose is commanding of detail and nuance. I Am Abraham is a rich, rich, rich description of of life at the micro level. Maybe Mr. Charyn could try his hand at a fictionalized account of ...more
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I like only certain historical fiction and this is one of those books. I like the voice of Abraham. It does linger on the facts we know but the background around those fact I like this Abraham and his family. The idealization that comes after death or great events takes away from their humanity and this allows you that privilege.
Georgiann Baldino
Mar 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book will interest readers of biography and historical fiction. Charyn focuses on the personal struggles and losses President Lincoln faced. The author developed a unique voice. His choice of incidents to include were perfect for the theme of his book.
Jenny Q
Feb 20, 2015 marked it as to-check-out
Q&A with Jerome Cheryn + Giveaway @ Let Them Read Books!
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is why I dislike novels. I read the book because of an avid interested in President Lincoln, but I disliked the author & so much of what he included & made up, was unnecessary.
Gerald Murphy
interesting and very different
Jack Buechner
After reading Chadryn’s latest “historical/histerical fiction “ with a almost magical trip with Teddy Roosevelt from sickly asthmatic child to becoming the Accidental President “. Those adventures for The King of the Cowboys made my inner bookworm dive into I am Abraham with gusto. It was entertaining but the edgy quirkiness of the author soon became an almost sophomoric exercise in telling us all of this Honest Abe’s synonyms for both male and female genitalia. I admit that most of us who rever ...more
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't decide where to place this. I think the idea of fleshing out a "hero" by giving him sexual desire, a challenging home life, and generally taking him down a notch is interesting. Four stars. However, I didn't find the novel as interesting as the idea that drove it. I didn't feel it gave me any deep insights to the man. Still all in all, a good book.
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Jerome Charyn is an award-winning American author. With more than 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon calls him "one of the most important writers in American literature." New York Newsday hailed Charyn as "a contemporary American Balzac," and the L