SUMMARY: A general's wife and a slave girl forge a friendship that transcends race, culture, and the crucible of Civil War.
Mary Anna Custis Lee is a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and heiress to Virginia's storied Arlington house and General Washington's personal belongings.
Born in bondage at Arlington, Selina Norris Gray learns to read and write in the schoolroom Mary and her mother keep for the slave children and eventually becomes Mary's housekeeper and confidante. As Mary's health declines, Selina becomes her personal maid, strengthening a bond that lasts until death parts them.
Forced to flee Arlington at the start of the Civil War, Mary entrusts the keys to her beloved home to no one but Selina. When Union troops begin looting the house, it is Selina who confronts their commander and saves many of its historic treasures.
In a story spanning crude slave quarters, sunny schoolrooms, stately wedding parlors, and cramped birthing rooms, novelist Dorothy Love amplifies the astonishing true-life account of an extraordinary alliance and casts fresh light on the tumultuous years leading up to and through the wrenching battle for a nation's soul.
A classic American tale, Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray is the first novel to chronicle this beautiful fifty-year friendship forged at the crossroads of America's journey from enslavement to emancipation.
REVIEW: This story brought some interesting and thought-provoking ideas about the period before, during and after the Civil War. Growing up, I always heard about General Robert E. Lee but never his wife or his family life. The author details the life of General Lee's wife and a slave woman who became friends. It's not quite a biography of Mary Anna Custis Lee and Selina Gray but the details Ms. Love goes into were very informative. I like how Mary Anna tried to treat the slaves on her family's plantation with respect. Even though she didn't like the idea of war, she stood behind her husband and did what she could to support him. The intertwining story of Selina Gray was interesting, too. Even though access to education was limited, she was determined and took advantage of every opportunity to learn through books and educating herself on how to run a household. This determination helped Mrs. Gray save Arlington plantation and most of General George Washington's belongings during occupation by Northern troops during the Civil War.
I would have liked to have more information on Selina as the chapters on her life were shorter than Mary Anna but, with limited resources, Ms. Love did a great job with the information she had. I didn't realize that Mary Anna dealt the the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, moved quite a bit, spent many long years alone due to her husband's military service and lost almost all of her children due to illness or war. These circumstances helped make her a very strong woman, one to be admired.
This is a thought-provoking book that was a very pleasant read.
This book was provided by Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson Publishers
for review without any compensation.
Dorothy Love is a native of West Tennessee and makes her home in the Texas hill country with her husband and their golden retriever. An award-winning author of numerous young adult novels, Dorothy made her adult debut with the Hickory Ridge novels.