Postcards to Father Abraham by Catherine Lewis

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Postcards to Father Abraham by Catherine Lewis

Lewis, Catherine. Postcards to Father Abraham. Atheneum, 2000. ISBN 978-0689828522 304 pp. $

*****

Her brother is shell-shocked from his tour of duty in Vietnam. She doesn’t get along with her banker father. Her sister, a math genius, struggles to make sense of it all. She has been expelled from school. Her mother is dead. She is lying in a hospital, recovering from the cancer that stole her runner’s legs. And in an O. Henry moment, her estranged best friend sends her a pair of running shoes.

As Meghan recovers from her amputation, she finds connections to Abraham Lincoln through cornfields, feet, war, writing, and tragedy. Interesting and little-known facts about Lincoln surface naturally in the narrative. Desperate for a father figure, bitter over her tragedies, and unable to express herself to her therapist, Meghan writes postcards to the past president to release her fury and confusion. She feels a strong bond between Lincoln’s suffering and her own, and wonders if she too can rise above it all.

The chapters that reveal Meghan’s late 60’s past and 1972 present are short but never spartan. Illinois cornfields are painted with vibrant and succinct detail; the joy of running is portrayed beautifully, making this an excellent choice for female athletes. Chapters read like diary entries, and move fluidly from past to present in even strides. Not all loose ends are tied up, but by the end it is clear the Meghan is on the road to emotional and physical recovery, taking small steps each day.

A bibliography would have been a welcome addition to this book. Readers who want to know more about Lincoln after this novel should be directed to Abraham Lincoln: A Writer’s Life by Harold Holzer for insights into Lincoln as a writer, and Russell Freedman’s Lincoln: A Photobiography for more details about the tragic figure of Lincoln.

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