Sunday, April 22, 2007

792.028092 Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth

One of the best parts of attending the annual TLA conference is the all the opportunities for meeting up with great books that don't show up on my radar in other ways. An extra special advantage is having a conference "roomie" and traveling partner who has SO many free books, she just has to drop some in my bag for loading the car! And so I get to "borrow" them right away.

Good Brother, Bad Brother is one book I am currently devouring. As is my usual method, I don't start at page 1 and read to the end. I have flipped thru this book and poured over all the historical photographs. I can't help it– I am completely fascinated by old photographs, particularly of the time period when any photo would have been a rarity. To study the actual face of the infamous historical figure John Wilkes Booth and try to detect any sign of the tortured mind and its plan is special (albeit it strange!) and I did it again with this book. I also studied the good brother Edwin with the same intensity to try and read what must have hidden in the recesses of his mind regarding the horrendous deed his brother carried out.

I had spent several sessions with the book before I discovered that its intended audience was for young people ages 10-15. The various vignettes that make up the chapters and the numerous primary documents that were used to create much of the story seemed to be beyond the average young teen reader. Not that I think it is inappropriate information for the age group. It is not, the way it is presented. One interesting ironic fact was that Edwin is credited with rescuing one of Lincoln's sons from a possible serious accident.

It is a somewhat dark book in that it describes the typical dysfunctional matters that often occur when a parent drinks too much and how two brothers were split along the political divide of the day. But the reader also can see how, when one chooses how to react to a situation, two lives can take completely different paths and one can have a satisfactory and fulfilling outcome.

To say that I enjoyed this book is not a correct statement only because the subject material is mostly not of an enjoyable nature. Have I learned some things I didn't know? Yes. Has it made me want to read some more about these brothers? Yes. Has it added to my understanding of a major historical event and what makes people do what they do? Yes. For me, that makes a successful read! Thanks JB for the loan!

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