Synopses & Reviews
An engrossing novel about Mary Todd Lincoln one of history's most misunderstood and enigmatic women.
Writing from Bellevue asylum where the shrieks of the other inmates keep her awake at night a famous widow can finally share the story of her life in her own words. From her tempestuous childhood in a slaveholding Southern family through the opium-clouded years after her husband's death, we are let into the inner, intimate world of this brave and fascinating woman.
Intelligent, unconventional and, some thought, mad she held spiritualist seances in the White House, ran her family into debt with compulsive shopping, negotiated with conniving politicians, and raised her young sons in the nation's capital during the bloodiest war this country has ever known. She was also a political strategist, a comfort to wounded soldiers, a supporter of emancipation, the first to be called First Lady, and a wife and mother who survived the loss of three children and the assassination of her beloved husband.
Interwoven with her memories of the past, she describes life in the asylum, where the treatment for lunacy is bland food, cold baths, and the near-lethal doses of chloral hydrate. It is here where we meet her friends, the anorectic Minnie Judd, who is starving herself to win the affection of her beautiful husband; and to Myra Bradwell, the suffragist lawyer who helps her win her freedom.
A dramatic tale filled with passion and depression, poverty and ridicule, infidelity and redemption, this is the unforgettable story of Mary Todd Lincoln.
"Abraham Lincoln's widow was committed by her son in 1875; kept awake by the bedlam of her fellow inmates, she takes up a pen. Newman, author of the memoir The Russian Word for Snow, portrays Mary Todd Lincoln (18181882) as a proto-feminist: she seduces poor Illinois lawyer Lincoln; kick-starts his career; draws his attention to the slavery issue; corrects his elocution before the Lincoln-Douglas debates; and lobbies behind the scenes (she also has an affair). After the 1860 election, the narrative returns to accepted history, dominated by Mary's crushing misery after a son's death in 1862, her husband's assassination and another son's death in 1872, punctuated by lavish shopping expeditions and an occasional psychotic break. Not introspective and demonstrative, Mary presents a challenge for any historical novelist. Newman makes a good choice in telling the story through Mary's eyes and drawing readers into her perspective. Lincoln buffs can give this a pass because he comes across as a shadowy figure, but readers looking for a vivid, mostly flattering (and rather massive) account of his once-notorious spouse, whose letters are becoming more read, will not be disappointed and those who simply come upon it will be happily surprised. (Sept. 8)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"One of those rare books that turns the reader into an admiring fan of both the author and her subject. You feel a compulsion to urge others to read it." Deirdre Donahue, USA Today
"[A] riveting portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln....Mary's hopes, dreams, feelings, and thoughts are conveyed with depth and subtlety..." Library Journal
"At 700 pages, Mary appears daunting, but...Newman...presents a gripping read that vividly portrays history in a way we all wish our high school history teachers had." Rocky Mountain News
"Like its protagonist, Mary is bold, happy to trample upon convention. It is also an old-fashioned pleasure to read its 700 pages fly by more easily than those in novels a third its length..." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"This is the immensely readable, close-to-life story of America's best known and most controversial First Lady." Jean H. Baker, author of Mary Lincoln: A Biography
In this engrossing novel about politics, love, war, and one of history's most misunderstood and enigmatic women, a famous widow shares the story of her life. From Mary's tempestuous childhood in a slave-holding Southern family through the opium-clouded years after her husband's death, readers are let into the inner, intimate world of Mary Todd Lincoln.
About the Author
Janis Cooke Newman is the author of the memoir The Russian Word for Snow, published in the United States, Germany, and Australia. Her travel writing has appeared in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Dallas Morning News. She lives in Northern California, where she teaches writing classes at the renowned independent bookstore Book Passage. Mary is her first novel.