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Publisher's Summary

From the Man Booker finalist and best-selling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves comes an epic and intimate novel about the family behind one of the most infamous figures in American history: John Wilkes Booth.

In 1822, a secret family moves into a secret cabin some 30 miles northeast of Baltimore, to farm, to hide, and to bear 10 children over the course of the next 16 years. Junius Booth - breadwinner, celebrated Shakespearean actor and master of the house in more ways than one - is at once a mesmerizing talent and a man of terrifying instability. One by one the children arrive, as year by year, the country draws frighteningly closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war.

As the tenor of the world shifts, the Booths emerge from their hidden lives to cement their place as one of the country’s leading theatrical families. But behind the curtains of the many stages they have graced, multiple scandals, family triumphs, and criminal disasters begin to take their toll, and the solemn siblings of John Wilkes Booth are left to reckon with the truth behind the destructively specious promise of an early prophecy.

Booth is a startling portrait of a country in the throes of change and a vivid exploration of the ties that make, and break, a family. 

©2022 Karen Joy Fowler (P)2022 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

One of Entertainment Weekly’s Most Anticipated Books of 2022

One of Kirkus Reviews’ Most Anticipated Books of 2022

One of Virginia Living’s Most Anticipated Books 2022

One of Veranda’s Most Anticipated Books 2022 

"The historical context [Fowler] offers is of a pre-Civil War America of deep moral divides, political differences tearing close families apart, populism and fanaticism run amok. The similarities to today are riveting and chilling." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) 

"Razor-sharp…Fowler sets the stage in remarkable prose….The nuanced plot is both historically rigorous and richly imagined. This is a winner." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

What listeners say about Booth

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  • Overall
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History comes alive

Beautifully written beautifully narrated. A story we have all known little bits of, this fleshes it out and is completely absorbing and interesting. Enjoyed it start to finish

2 people found this helpful

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Not what I was hoping for

Lots of history in this novel but got kind of boring at times. I was hoping for more. I’ll give it a 3.5 total!!!

2 people found this helpful

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Fascinating

It’s amazing to see the echoes of similarities of the self righteous strains of thought still prevalent in our society today.

It’s also fascinating to learn of this enigmatic family who held such different views than their famous son.

I was riveted from start to end.

1 person found this helpful

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Incredible. Absolutely incredible.

If you condemn the sinner as simply insane you do yourself an injustice. You allow yourself the belief that devastating tragedy happened because of a momentary imbalance or mental illness. But the truth is so much more complex and can’t be portrayed in a headline on social media. Karen Joy Fowler’s BOOTH shows us the life and times of the booth family. It is a time that eerily resembles our own and if it doesn’t scare you how easily one domino hits the next, hits the next, hits the next until the world is changed forever, then I’m unsure if we’ll be able to stop the next, and the next, and the next great tragedy. If we don’t make an effort to communicate (listening as well as speaking) with those we vehemently disagree with, we will one day again realize we missed our chance to stop a tragedy.

1 person found this helpful

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Spellbinding

The narration is perfect and the story is paced so brilliantly that I consumed this book in 24 hours. One of my top books of 2022!

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Captivating!!

I found this book to be riveting! The character of John Wilkes Booth was known, of course, but the additional information about him and his family was all new for me. The reader was excellent and contributed immensely to my enjoying and learning from this book. I highly recommend it.

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Rambling

I don't even recall hearing thr Booth name until late in this rambling story. So much of the farm life of this family with kids being born and dying young, of slaves and absent father then suddenly translated to the city where their story continues. There is a sudden, passing, refrance to a depressive Lincoln and then we are back with this family and o and on and on! There is an oblique, passing, reference to Wilkes; not John Wilkes, but it's just a flash in the pan, as other characters take center stage. While the character's are interesting.,and well developed one has to wonder what they are being developed for or why the Wikes character isn't being developed? He is,after all, a principle character in this story.

I could not maintain an interest in this rambling story that does not appeR to be coming together any time soon.

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Entertaining and thought provoking historical fiction

This account of the family Booth provides a terrifying glimpse of society right before the Civil War. It could easily be a warning for our own present day.

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"Charlotte. South Carolina"

It takes about halfway through the book for the narrative to evolve from the Booth children frolicking and get to the good stuff. I know this is fiction, but who edited this? Someone or other was sent to med school in Charlotte, South Carolina, and I just lost all confidence that any of these could be remotely true or based on any kind of research.

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Enthralling

This novel is an enthralling examination of one of America's most fascinating families. I could
not stop listening. Beautifully written. The reader was superb. And, yes, it's a novel, so not every syllable is historically accurate; it is a beautiful, engaging book, nevertheless.