Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

by Lois Leveen
New York : William Morrow, c2012.

*NOTE: This review refers to the book I received through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. As per the rules, I receive a free book in return for a review, and whether it's positive or negative has no affect on my receiving books in the future.*

As a child, Mary lives with her mother as slaves to the Van Lew family in Richmond, Virginia. When Bet, the daughter of her mistress, buys all the slaves and frees them, Mary's parents have to make difficult decisions about their future. Her father is still a slave for another master working as a blacksmith, and her mother doesn't want to leave him. Mary has an opportunity to go to school in Philadelphia, but that may mean leaving her parents behind forever.

I received this as an Early Reviewer book far too long ago, and I'm really unsure why I put it off so long. This book reads almost like a memoir of Mary, from the time she was a child through the end of the Civil War. It's really well done historical fiction, including a lot of period details without too many extraneous research details thrown in. Mary and Bet Van Lew were real people, and I was really interested in a lot of the extras included at the end, with photographs from Richmond and references to some of the books Leveen used in her research (I could have used a bibliography instead of footnotes to the historical note, but I'll take what I got to read further). Mary is a great character, and I enjoyed the way in which the varying beliefs about what was necessary to end slavery or to win the war was explored through the characters' motivations.

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