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The Secrets of Mary Bowser

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

by Lois Leveen


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With the rich detail of Cold Mountain, the strong female bonds of The Help, and the untold history of The Warmth of Other Suns, comes a powerful debut novel about the secrets a woman keeps, and those she will risk everything to tell.

Mary is a loving daughter, a quick-witted girl, and a slave to one of the wealthiest families in Richmond, Virginia.  When Bet Van Lew, the outspoken daughter of the family that owns Mary, decides to send her to Philadelphia to be educated, Mary must leave her parents to seize her freedom.

Life in the North offers Mary a different kind of education than she ever expected.  Carefully keeping the secrets of her own enslaved family, she joins the abolition movement to bring fugitive slaves to freedom.  As the nation edges toward war, Mary defies Virginia law by returning to Richmond, vowing to care for her ailing father—and to fight for emancipation.  Knowing that slaves are considered incapable of intelligence, she poses as a slave in the Confederate White House to spy on President Jefferson Davis.  Together Mary and Bet risk their own lives to smuggle invaluable information to the Union commanders.

As illness and hunger ravage the city, Mary's espionage leads her to deceive even those who are closest to her.  Just when it seems all her dangerous gambles to end slavery will pay off, the death and destruction of the war take their greatest toll, and Mary discovers that everything comes at a cost—even freedom.

Based on a true story , written with immense heart, The Secrets of Mary Bowser is an illuminating and inspiring tale of injustice and courage, friendship and war—and of one daring woman willing to sacrifice her own freedom to change the course of history.

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