Cover image for Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray : a novel
Title:
Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray : a novel
ISBN:
9780718042448
Physical Description:
386 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes reading group guide.
Summary:
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.
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Summary

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 and 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.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Love (Carolina Gold), known for her works of historical mystery and romance, takes on a new challenge in this biographical novel, which traces the relationship between the wife of Robert E. Lee and Selina Norris Grey, a woman enslaved by the Lee family, between 1827 and 1873. Mary Custis Lee, a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, grew up at Arlington, a plantation that also was home to 60 enslaved adults and children. Mary and her mother were both members of the Colonization Society, working to buy freedom for the enslaved and send them to Liberia. They also took the radical step of educating the people they owned, teaching them to read and write. One of Mary's most eager pupils was the young Selina Norris. While Mary weds Robert E. Lee and begins her life as military wife, Selina becomes a housekeeper at the house in Arlington and marries an enslaved man. The two women maintain their unlikely friendship through letters and sporadic visits. During the Civil War, Mary entrusts the care of Arlington to Selina. Love writes that her inspiration for the novel was "to bring Mary Anna Randolph Lee out of the shadow of her iconic husband... and to explore the friendship between Mary and Selina." She succeeds on both counts, creating a sympathetic portrait of these two women that both engages and educates the reader. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Until her death in 1873, Mary Custis Lee, daughter of wealthy plantation owners and wife to Robert E. Lee, shared an uncommon friendship with Selina Norris Gray, who was one of her family's slaves. Love (A Respectable Actress, 2015) has effectively captured the complicated, unbalanced relationship between these two women, as each tells her story in alternating chapters. Mary is active in the American Colonization Society, the movement to free slaves and send them back to Africa, and she breaks the law to teach Selina and other slaves how to read. When the Lee family must flee as Union troops arrive at Arlington, it's Selina whom Mary leaves in charge, and it is Selina who stands up to the Union commander and stops his troops from plundering the estate. The nefariously capricious nature and duality of slavery fills the book; when the Lee slaves try to escape, they are whipped mercilessly. Despite Mary's magnanimity, Selina knows she could be sold to another owner for any small offense. Based on real people and events, the novel includes excerpts of actual correspondence, and this, as well as Love's keen attention to historical detail, adds to its authenticity.--Mosley, Shelley Copyright 2016 Booklist