Karla M. (Sicklerville, NJ)
Glad I Kept Reading
I found the first portion of the book a little slow but I'm glad I stuck it out because this was a great book. The story is wonderfully told and all the characters are so full of life you can't help but feel like you are right there with them. I love that Mary Bowser is such a strong woman character; especially for the time period. I could see this book becoming a movie because the plot is so fascinating.
Kimberli M. (Jessup, MD)
It pulls you in
I would highly recommend The Secrets of Mary Browser. It is written with incredible detail that not only tells you a story, but teaches you about a period of history in the United States that still influences our lives today. Mary was an incredibly courageous woman who risked everything to try to bring freedom to slaves. Great read!
Jan M. (Jenks, OK)
History made easy
I'm not a good history student, so this book was a delightful experience for me. A history lesson made easy! Mary Bowser's "secrets" gave this reader a look at slavery and the civil war from an entirely different perspective. I was appalled by the fact that slaves were forbidden to learn to read. I was aware that many were illiterate, but it just really had not sunk in that they were kept that way intentionally.
The courage and determination of Mary Bowser was no less than heroic. Then to have risked everything to return to servitude was beyond brave. This writer was able to give her readers a look at the horrific events of the civil war from the perspective of one who was living through the difficulties. I realize the actions and conversations were fiction, based on facts, but the writer presented them in such a way that this reader almost felt a part of the story.
A beautifully written book that I will most certainly recommend to my book club.
Sylvia J. (Los Angeles, CA)
This is why I love historical fiction!
This book is a classic example of why I love historical fiction. Ms. Leveen was able to fill every page with such rich detail bringing each character to life in such a fully dimensional way and at the same time she was able to show the struggles, suffering and mixed bag that slavery represented. I truly enjoyed being able to see Mary go from young slave girl to the free woman of color who was brilliantly educated and a shrewd spy during the Civil War. I highly recommend this book to everyone but in particular I recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction.
Mary P. (Bellingham, WA)
The Secrets of Mary Bowser
This is one of the best books I've read in recent years.
While it is fiction, based on a small bit of probable history, it reads like a true story, told by a participant in an amazing part of American History. You have to admire Mary Bowser, who follows her heart to do the right thing, despite life-threatening danger.
I enjoyed learning about the different layers of society among African-Americans in those years around and including the Civil War. It is revelatory.
I would recommend this book whole-heartedly to Book Clubs and individuals who want an absorbing, thought-provoking read.
Laura A. (Jeremiah, KY)
Well worth reading!
The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen is a true story of a young slave girl in Richmond, VA who spends her life (most of it being done in complete secrecy) fighting for freedom for the slaves. And in doing these things she is risking her own freedom and even life. This book was an amazing and sometimes sad story but definitely one worth reading. Mary was an incredible woman.
DawnEllen J. (Riverside, CA)
History Comes Alive
Lois Leveen takes a little-known historical figure and makes her come alive in The Secrets of Mary Bowser. Working carefully researched events and other historical figures together with richly nuanced creative details and fictional elements, Leveen weaves a wonderfully engaging tapestry that honors her subject and treats difficult material with sensitivity and honesty. Through Mary's experiences, the reader is compelled to confront the usual ideas about North and South, slave and free, and comes away with a completely different understanding of this complex period of history. This is historical fiction at its best: it teaches, enlightens, delights, challenges, and entertains.