In keeping with my recent theme of family novels, here’s Booth, a novel that kept me up way too late several nights in a row, even though I knew the ending.

One of the most famous families in early American history, and then the most infamous, the family Booth should be known for much more than the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Karen Joy Fowler dives into their family history with glee and gusto, as if she’s continually shocked and amazed by what she’s able to pull out. Insanity in several branches of the family tree, journeys west, bitter and abandoned families, and lamentable proximity to the very center of the Civil War.

Fowler is careful not to delve too deeply into the heart of John Wilkes—she’s not trying to imagine his interior life—but instead, shows him through the eyes of his parents and siblings. This choice is the right one. The Booth children are characters so rich that what their brother does at Ford’s Theatre is neither the most interesting thing that happens nor the thing you spend the book waiting for.

Booth isn’t a perfect novel. The subject and times could have made for even richer material. At times the politics and history are flat or overly contemporary. Importantly, the interlocking background story of the Hall family, slaves and freed slaves, could have been a novel of its own instead of the hidden trauma off to the side of the Booths’ own epic.

But it’s compulsively fascinating, and more than worth the read. The family Booth, even without John’s crime, is worthy of its own saga. Thanks for the birthday present @danimunsil!

#amreading #bookish #bookpost #newreview #booth #karenjoyfowler #historicalnovel #novelist #2023books #readingfiction #booklist #readoldbooks #franklintn #ourbedsidetables

📝: Karen Joy Fowler
📖: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
🧔: Reviewed by Will