PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewZeitz weaves between the dogmas, revealing a complex thinker who deftly merged religious language with political goals ... Zeitz adds meaningful context to the story, examining the ways in which soldiers experienced religion in the field ... Importantly, Zeitz includes the perspective of Black Americans, who held views of their own that were often at odds with the tendency to see the United States as a promised land ... Zeitz’s forays into earlier religious history, including that of the Puritans, also feel rushed ... But Zeitz has chosen an important element of Lincoln’s life to explore, especially in an age when the virus of religious certainty drives so much autocratic thinking, at home and abroad.
PositiveThe Washington Post... offers a close reading of Lincoln’s final weeks in office, with the Civil War winding down and huge questions still unresolved about the terms of surrender, the rights of newly liberated African Americans and the Reconstruction to follow ... The book also serves as a kind of leadership primer, a growing subcategory of presidential biography, and explains how Lincoln’s lessons were absorbed by later generations of presidents and policymakers ... Avlon succeeds admirably in the first task ... There the story might have ended. But Avlon brings it into the 20th century and beyond, to offer broad leadership lessons to today’s readers. The results are mixed...it is no simple matter to shoehorn other historical situations into the specific frame of 1865 ... These later chapters move quickly from decade to decade with a Forrest-Gump-like bounciness — fascinating at times but also unsettling for those accustomed to a steadier read ... But Avlon’s durable faith in Lincoln offers a boost of confidence at a time when our history, instead of uniting us, has become yet another battleground...As Lincoln understood, the work of democracy at home is indispensable to the work of peace abroad. It is reassuring to have the case for each restated so cogently.