Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In an Alternate Universe...

Ever wonder what might have happened if Lincoln had not been assassinated?  Stephen L. Carter has.  In his book, The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, he has turned casual wondering into intriguing speculation and created a taut, gripping, and rather fantastic historical mystery story.

In this story, Lincoln survived the assassination attempt at Ford's Theater.  His Vice President, Andrew Johnson, did not. Instead of being viewed as a benevolent father leading the nation through a healing process, Lincoln is viewed as a tyrant selling out the Northern victory to accommodate the defeated South.  Now, Lincoln is facing impeachment charges brought against him by the United States Senate.

The central figure in this story is Abigail Canner, a well-educated young black woman.  Determined to overcome the two strikes against her, Abigail's great ambition is to become a lawyer.  She is hired as a clerk in a Washington law firm that just happens to be defending President Lincoln in his impeachment trial.

When Lincoln's lead defense attorney is found murdered in the company of a black woman assumed to be a prostitute, Abigail is thrust into the heart of the mystery where she pursues threads of an ever deepening plot that seem to lead back to members of her own family.

In the telling of his story, Carter provides insights into political tactics and the destructiveness of hardened political positions, the status of women, a different perspective on the struggles of African-Americans, and a different perspective of a critical time in our nation's history.

As it turns out, Carter has a lot to teach us, but his saving grace is that he never forgets his story.  The little lessons along the way always support the story and stay in the background  there for you if you care to see them.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book and a compelling mystery.  The history and the cultural lessons are a nice bonus offered without being intrusive.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Do You Believe Everyone Has One Special "Other"?

Thanks for the Memories
by Cecelia Ahern

If it is true that we each have some perfect partner "out there" waiting to be found, I suppose we must also believe in a benevolent Universe somehow conspiring to bring us together.

That is, sort of, the premise of this book by Cecelia Ahern.  Justin Hitchcock is a recently divorced father who has moved from Chicago to London to be closer to his young adult daughter. As a guest lecturer in Dublin, he meets Sara, a doctor who is recruiting blood donors.

In an effort to continue their relationship, he agrees to donate even though he really hates needles and generally all things medical.

Joyce Conroy is a Dublin real estate agent whose life is falling apart.  In an effort to save their marriage, she and her husband have become pregnant, but  she falls down the stairs in her home. She loses the baby and nearly loses her life.  She also loses a lot of blood and requires a massive transfusion.

That's the set-up.  After the incident, Joyce is plagued by strange memories, unusual knowledge, and bizarre dreams about people she does not know.  Circumstances throw the couple together, but misunderstanding, ego, insecurities, and stubbornness keep them from connecting.

Getting to the inevitable conclusion is a long and drawn out affair.  Thank goodness, the story is told with plenty of humor and amusing situations!  They are the salvation of this book.

In the end, Thanks for the Memories is a light and enjoyable book with interesting characters and a satisfying resolution.  This is the kind of book to take on a long trip.  It will keep you pleasantly entertained between flights.