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Book Review: Lincoln in the Basement by Jerry Cowling by Lisa Scherer
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Book Review: Lincoln in the Basement by Jerry Cowling PLOT SUMMARY:
In the alternate version of 1862 in Lincoln in the Basement, President and Mrs. Lincoln have been kidnapped from the White House and successfully replaced with look-alikes. Secretary of War Edward Stanton, disgusted by Lincoln's military strategy, arranges for the President and Mrs. Lincoln to be hidden in the White House basement and replaced with doppelgängers who have been thoroughly trained on the habits and mannerisms of the First Couple.
At first, the look-alike imposters Alethia Halliday and Duff Reed are thrilled to be rescued from their federal military prison death row sentences; however, they soon tire of constantly being “in character” in their never-ending acting roles. The Lincolns' son Tad knows that Alethia and Duff aren’t his real mom and dad, but is told that this is a prank with which he needs to cooperate. As luck would have it, Tad soon comes to care about the imposters almost as much as his own parents.
Secretary of War Stanton is able to get away with the kidnapping for as long as he does because other politicians don't care enough to explore the reasons why the President acts slightly different, while members of the domestic staff in the White House are too scared to ask any questions. Meanwhile, the real President and Mrs. Lincoln are unable to escape from their basement confinement and spend their days reading, talking, eating, worrying about the country and planning to escape at the first possible opportunity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brooksville resident Jerry Cowling is a newspaper journalist by trade and an author, family man and professional storyteller by choice. The idea for Lincoln in the Basement came to him in a dream.
WHAT I LIKED:
I really liked the depth and richness of Cowling’s characters. Just like in real life, characters in Lincoln in the Basement are noble and selfish, good and bad, intelligent and confused, obedient and ambitious. There are no good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats; each character is a realistic shade of gray.
Also, it appealed to me that Cowling crafted plausible reasons for the White House impostors not being immediately discovered. Tying the personal stories of love, lust, stupidity, greed, desire, loyalty and arrogance to the nation's struggle with states' rights, political intrigue, slavery, freedom and power creates a level of believability not often found in alternate histories.
WHAT I DISLIKED:
Nothing really comes to mind. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Lincoln in the Basement will make you question what you learned in history class and leave you wondering what if? in a way both thought-provoking and unsettling. Cowling has created an engaging story with fully-realized characters rich in vivid historical detail that will entertain both history buffs and novices alike.
"FANGRRL" is ©2010 by Lisa Scherer. All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.