Seven Wives and Seven Prisons by L.A. Abbott
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Some one has said that if any man would faithfully write his autobiography, giving truly his own history and experiences, the ills and joys, the haps and mishaps that had fallen to his lot, he could not fail to make an interesting story." Well Mr. Abbott, I'm not sure that's true for everyone, but it's certainly true for you!
I knew nothing about Seven Wives and Seven Prisons, but with chapter subtitles like "My first and worst wife" and "My own son tries to murder me," it's been a long time since I got this excited about reading a book, and I wasn't disappointed.
In the early-to-mid 1800s, Abbott bounced around the United States northeast from one state to the next, getting married and - more often than not - getting thrown in prison because of that marriage.
"She said she was lonely; she sighed; she smiled, and I was lost."
Says Abbott, "I was a monomaniac on the subject of matrimony" and after reading a mere couple chapters you will believe him through and through.
The man seemed incapable of even looking at a woman without ending up married to her. Not bothering to get a divorce from his first wife caused many of his problems, as - even though he was still married to her - he continued to elope with other women. Dude needed to get his priorities in order. But time and time again, he fell into the same old trap, never seeming to truly learn from his mistakes: "As my readers know by this time, all experience, even the bitterest, was utterly thrown away upon me; I seemed to get out of one scrape only to walk, with my eyes open, straight into another."
Aiding and abetting him was his love of liquor, an underlying sort of disdain for authority and a fancy-free attitude, an almost vagabond's outlook on life. He may not be to blame for these tendencies, as it appears his father had a wayward nature that forced itself on young Abbott's upbringing. As a young man, he started off as an apprentice blacksmith to his father, moving with him here and there upon his father's whim.
And then - BAM! - Abbott just kinda became a doctor. As an author, he doesn't dally on the little details. He speeds up the timeline of his life so much that occasionally important questions like, oh I don't, "how did you become a doctor?" for the most part go unanswered.
After a while I was asking myself, like poor little drugged up David after the dentist on Youtube...
Is this real life?
This guy's life is almost too ridiculous to believe. He reminds me of Candide. All manner of mishap befalls him. At any second I was expecting him to get one of his buttocks chopped off. Granted, stories can sound like legend when only the most interesting highlights over the length of one's life are compiled into one tightly packed narrative. But in the very least, I would guess that Abbott is giving us a biased account of his side of the story, maybe with a dash of fisherman's-tale embellishment.
I've tried to verify the story, but there is scant info on the man. In the end, does it really matter? This is just a hell of a fun story. Read it and enjoy it.
If you're interested, you can find Seven Wives and Seven Prisons for free at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/4667