Rated of 5
Good historical fiction
There were several things that surprised me about this book. The first that struck me was the way the author chose to structure her narrative. Its beginning scenes take place as Henry Beecher is dying, but flashbacks soon take the reader back to the infamous trial and -- flashback within flashback -- to earlier family history. (I found this a bit disturbing at first, but soon got so wrapped up in the various plot-lines I found I no longer cared.)
Surprise #2: Much of the book is back-story with very little to do with the trial or with Henry's death. O'Brien instead concentrates on the lives of Henry's sisters, Isabella and Harriet. While not as compelling as the other two story lines, I found it to be good, solid historical fiction.
Finally, surprise #3: Most of O'Brien's narrative concerns Isabella, the least famous of the three main characters. It was fascinating to read about this amazing woman's life. I was a bit disappointed that so little text was devoted to Harriet Beecher Stowe, as I would have liked to learn more about her as well, but I still found the novel worthwhile.
Overall, I'm glad I read this novel. It provided an entertaining look at a time period about which I know little. I felt it was well-written and well-researched.