The Rail Splitter: A Novel
Cribb has already written a novel covering the years of Lincoln’s presidency: Old Abe. In The Rail Splitter, he turns to Lincoln’s youth, offering us a portrait of one of the most respected presidents as a young man beginning his political career. There’s a great deal to enjoy about this book, and I learned a lot about a man I mostly know from 1861 onward. Cribb brings young Abe to life with all his humanizing quirks and doubts.
The book is deeply, even intimately, researched, and it’s clear it has much ground to cover. At some points, there may be too much ground; in his attempt to fit in everything, Cribb is sometimes forced to summarize things that I felt deserved at least a full scene and, at times, devotes a paragraph or more to things that might have been best skipped over for the sake of narrative flow.
That aside, The Rail Splitter has an excellent pace overall and is a delightful look at the years that shaped the sixteenth president of the United States. I’m eager to pick up Old Abe next to see how Cribb handled the presidency itself.