"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

-C.S. Lewis

What we read has such an impact on us, and I am always on the lookout for something that will inspire me to be a better person. Here is a sampling of books that have been in the teetering stack sitting on top of what is rumored to be my bedside table.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage, by Daniel Mark Epstein

    I've been curious about the marriage of Abraham and Mary Lincoln for quite some time.  They are an intriguing subject even without the Presidency and the Civil War.  I suppose they serve almost as a cautionary tale of two souls who start out in love and on equal footing, only to slowly transform into a very strange relationship that makes so many wonder if either party regretted their decision to marry.  In short, Abraham married Mary with great plans for their future... and then life happened, as it does to so many of us.  The fact that their lives became such an influential part of American history doesn't mitigate the fact that I think many of us identify with them.  The struggles they dealt in their marriage with could happen to any of us on different scales.

     The book begins with their courtship, and ends with the moment of his death.  The pages in between are so well researched it is easy to picture every detail clearly.  Some of their struggles were kept fairly well hidden, but Epstein is still able to give us glimpses into their life through his careful research.  Both Lincolns, of course, battled mental illness of varying degrees.  But Mary in particular struggled with issues for which there was no adequate treatment.  And the further she slipped into her illness, the more their marriage changed as a result.

     I closed this book with new sorrow for Mary, but also a new respect for Lincoln.  He seems to have taken the "in sickness and in health" portion of the marriage vows very seriously.  The book shows a definite shift in his attitude and behavior toward Mary the worse she became.  And with the personal turmoil of their family life, it is a wonder that Lincoln the President was able to guide this country through arguably the worst time in its history.

     And just as an aside, Epstein's writing of the assassination is inspired.  He shifts the point of view to that of Mary's and we get a final glimpse into the fragility of her mind during one of the worst moments of her life.

     Well worth the read for any history buff.

     Five out of Five Stars