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The Washington Post Reviews “Booth”

‘Booth’ imagines the dysfunctional family that created John Wilkes Booth

By Diane Cole

Every family shares a stage, but some are more crowded than others. In her exquisite new historical novel, “Booth,” acclaimed author Karen Joy Fowler raises the curtain on a cast of ego-driven, grief-haunted siblings and parents jostling for a spotlight even as they carelessly shove into the shadows the more timid among them. Leading the ensemble is the flamboyant Shakespearean actor Junius Brutus Booth, father most famously of the celebrated tragedian Edwin; and most infamously of John Wilkes, who abandoned his acting career to perpetrate the real-life tragedy of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

Yes, we know even before we turn the first page where the intertwined timelines of the Booths and American history will lead, but Fowler’s deftly imagined family portrait keeps us riveted. Her exploration of the pathways by which a seemingly private family melodrama can bleed into public savagery illuminates not just a single household’s, but an entire country’s toxic dysfunction. That we are still grappling with the Civil War era’s legacy lends Fowler’s chronicle an inescapable contemporary resonance and underlines anew Shakespeare’s timeless observation that what is past is prologue and that we forget it at our peril. Read the full review at the Washington Post.

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