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Triumph Over Tragedy - an Editorial Review of "Lincoln's Angel"

Lincoln's Angel book cover

Book Blurb:

A novel of triumph over tragedy, a vital and rare story exhumed from catacombs of forgotten history. The Boston Globe April 17, 1904: She was frequently the staff upon which he [President Lincoln] leaned during days and weeks of sorrow and uncertainty. Abraham Lincoln said: Mrs. Pomroy, when you are an old woman, please tell your grandchildren how greatly indebted the nation is to you for holding up my hands in time of trouble. Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles wrote her saying: The many trials of the president were better known to you than to his countrymen. Discover the awe-inspiring story of Rebecca Pomroy, a Civil War army nurse who changes the course of a nation. She overcomes thirty years of unrelenting affliction and grief to bring hope and healing to countless soldiers as a Civil War army nurse. But when she encounters the weight of anguish carried by President and Mrs. Lincoln, Rebecca's true calling is revealed. She must rescue them from despair and self-doubt, or risk the collapse of the government. With unwavering determination and boundless compassion, she shepherds the president's family through the shadows of death and the hollows of debilitating grief, even as she attends to scores of dying patients in her hospital ward. Celebrate the power of the human spirit to overcome even the darkest of tragedies. Inspired by Rebecca Pomroy’s daily journal, letters, and recollections. Based on real lives, real places, and actual events.

Author Bio:

D. L. Fowler author photo

DL Fowler graduated from the University of Southern California with a BA in Humanities and earned top honors at the Defense Language Institute, Monterey CA. For over a decade, he has immersed himself in historical sites and museums, scoured obscure source documents, and mined for clues in neglected footnotes to assimilate Abraham Lincoln's inner world and discover people from the margins who lifted him in times of crisis. Two of Fowler’s novels are curated in the Lincoln Presidential Library. His Lincoln Lecture Series earned him the nickname—The Lincoln Guy.

Editorial Review:

Lincoln’s Angel is a heartrending biographical novel detailing the life of the heroic Rebecca Pomroy. Her life was nothing short of astounding. Readers follow Rebecca from her childhood all the way until the end of her life. She lived through many trials and tribulations, both on a personal scale with ailing family members and on a global scale when she worked as a nurse for the injured soldiers during the American Civil War. Despite the darkness that stalked her entire life, the brightness within her heart never dimmed making her story a truly inspiring one.

Readers are immediately entrenched in the world of Rebecca Pomroy from the first page. Fourteen-year-old Rebecca is a sweet, empathetic girl whose primary desire is to ease pain and suffering where she sees it. This desire manifests with her taking whatever money or supplies that she can find and bringing them to the indigent mothers and orphaned children of lower Anne Street in Boston. She reads stories to the street urchins, holds their hands and provides kindness and love where it is needed most. This deep devotion to easing suffering is an integral part of Rebecca’s character and shapes her destiny as she develops into womanhood.

Grief is a heavy theme interwoven throughout the narrative creating a very Dickensian atmosphere. It all begins with the death of Rebecca’s father which haunts her for her entire life. One of the author’s many strengths is the ability to depict the true nature of grief in that it is a never-ending process and that time merely dulls but does not heal the wound. This is evident when Rebecca is watching her son play and the thought of her father, who passed away a decade ago, crosses her mind, “Her eyes misted. Ten years had passed since that masthead fell, crushing Papa. The line between the past and present sometimes became so blurred, she could not tell the difference between them. Reality told her one thing, but memories still fooled her into believing danger lurked overhead, about to descend on someone she loved—like the Angel of Death swooping down and stealing Sarah away. Warring against memories drained her energy.” Despite so much time passing, Rebecca’s pain is palpable. To ease her heartache, her husband, Daniel, whispers to her, “Memories are illusions, only echoes from the past with no power of their own. They are no longer real. Until you can see that, you will miss out on whatever moments of happiness come our way.” This is a beautiful reminder to focus on the present moment and find happiness there as opposed to ruminating on the pain of the past.

As well as grief being a constant thread connecting the story together, the notion of freedom is also integral to the plot of the story and to Rebecca’s own life. The way in which this manifests for Rebecca is clear in how she desires to have freedom from poverty, freedom to make her own choices in life as well as the freedom to follow her heart’s desires. On a more global and collective level, the Civil War is all about freedom for everyone. Rebecca’s views on how everyone deserves freedom is made clear when she witnesses two black women escaping after being detained in a courtroom. Rebecca mused: “I hope that carriage was racing those two women to their freedom. They crave liberty like everyone else, but there is a line drawn in the soil, beyond which that right is denied. A line drawn not by God but by greed and cruelty. It is my sincere prayer that they never again be made to cross over to the wrong side of that line.”

Rebecca’s journey is one of extreme difficulty. She witnesses the death of many loved ones which turns her heart bitter and develops into a resentment of God. However, readers witness her development and inner changes when it comes to faith as the novel and her life progress. Despite railing against God in her earlier years for taking away so many prized lives, as she gets older, she opens her heart to God again and finds strength and fortitude in her faith to carry her through yet more difficult years. It is perhaps this core faith which President Lincoln admires so deeply in her when she is called to help his convalescing children and wife. Rebecca opens her heart to Lincoln in this moving passage, “I agonized through a long season of grief before I understood—they who leave this life early are more blessed than we who remain behind. Then I asked, why does God not take me out of this life and grant me eternal peace. Often, I sit in my hospital ward late at night, when all is quiet except for the sound of weeping from those who cannot sleep. I know that I tarry on this earth to be a blessing to my boys and to your family. How do I endure the evil of this world? I remind myself I am his instrumentality to salve the wounds evil men inflict on one another. And that is cause enough for celebration.” Rebecca clearly finds a deep sense of purpose helping others not only on the physical level with mending wounds but also on the emotional, mental and spiritual level.

Additionally, a powerful quote that Lincoln recounts to Rebecca was a statement which Ralph Waldo Emerson made to him. In it, Emerson’s intention seemed to be to help Lincoln understand what the purpose of suffering may be, “Fires, plagues, revolutions, and calamities of all sorts serve to break up entrenched routines, clear the arena of corrupt contests, and open a fair field to all men.” The search for meaning in suffering is a constant conundrum which Rebecca and other’s face as they try to understand and find a sense of purpose in their pain. The questions and themes brought up within the pages of Lincoln’s Angel are so profound and relevant in today’s world. They touch on some of the most poignant facets of what it means to be human.

Overall, Lincoln’s Angel was an incredibly touching read and truly made readers feel connected to the admirable Rebecca Pomroy. Her life was one full of hardship but the way she navigated it with such grace and faith is truly worthy of appreciation and celebration. Readers are witness to her struggles, grief, accomplishments, successes but most of all, we are given a glimpse into the bigness of her golden heart, always giving, always willing to sacrifice what she can to help a soul in pain.

This novel is certainly not for the faint of heart as it depicts some form of tragedy on almost every page. It is laden with sadness and struggle and comes with some hefty trigger warnings. It will shatter the reader’s heart over and over again. Despite this, we rate Lincoln’s Angel a 5 out of 5 star read as it depicts the brutal honesty of living conditions of the time, the raw emotions people felt, and the admirable faith that people had to carry them through the struggles. Not only was Rebecca able to continually cope with the sadness life dealt her but she was able to fully step into her purpose with unwavering certainty. Despite, or perhaps because of her hardships, she knew that she had a greater purpose and that the deaths and endless stream of griefs were preparing her for something so much bigger than herself. This is apparent in one of the most moving quotes in the book, which is when she states, “Let nothing overshadow the purpose which God has laid on your heart.” In spite of everything, she never abandons her purpose making her a truly inspiring historical figure.


“Lincoln's Angel” by D.L. Fowler receives five stars and the Highly Recommended award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company


HFC highly recommended award sticker


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