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The Secrets of Mary Bowser

by Lois Leveen

The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen X
The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen
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    May 2012, 496 pages

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There are currently 25 reader reviews for The Secrets of Mary Bowser
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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.
Rachel B. (Waynetown, IN)

Very touching and informative
I have a special place in my heart for historical fiction, and this was a really amazing book. What makes it more inspiring and interesting is the real life and events it was based on. Sometimes I hear people lamenting about the state of things, and I read a book like this and think how nice the world could be if we were all so brave and willing to make the kind of sacrifices and chances Mary did. The events and characters were believable, and I agree with the other readers who have said that they enjoyed the perspective of a city slave. I am also very used to the story of the slaves on the plantations and such, but it was nice to read of the experiences in Richmond, away from the fields. Pacing was a little slow in the middle, but not enough to stop my reading, or be too distracting. Definitely would recommend.
Lisa F. (Newton, MA)

Well Written Story
Mary Bowser was a real person and this book combined fact with fiction to fill in the gaps. I enjoyed this book very much and learned about the Civil War, the Underground Railroad and how blacks were treated in the Union North, that they really were not allowed to live totally free. Reading about Mary's life was interesting, intriguing and I learned many new things about this time period. A wonderful read! I'm going to choose it for my book club when it's my turn.
Janice C. (Hayward, CA)

The Secret's o Mary Bowser
This an exceptional book. Yes, it did slow down a little in the middle. but still held my interest. It was written with such clarity and love. Mary Bowser was brave extremely brave. I think everyone should read this novel (based on a true story). I am going to recommend this book to the History Teacher at the school where I work part- time. I'm going to suggest ordering a class set. This book made me go back and review Civil War history. i also plan to reread Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Shirin M. (Beverly Hills, CA)

The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen
Based on the true story of Mary Bower, born a slave and freed by her owner’s daughter, she returns to slavery to play a pivotal, albeit secret role in the Union victory. Lois Leveen’s story is a panoramic portrayal of a young African-American woman’s life set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century. The author effectively captures the tone and rhythms of the time in the dialogue and descriptions of people and places. Filled with historical facts, realistic characters, and an eye for social and cultural details, this book is a must read for those who enjoy historical fiction and spy novels. From a human perspective, this story illuminates Paul Dunbar’s poem, “We wear the mask”.
Margaret L. (Petoskey, MI)

A Wonderful History Lesson
This is a story about the life of Mary Bowser, a remarkable women who found the courage to do unthinkable deeds to fight for her beliefs. The author's picturesque style of writing and use of antiquated dialogue takes the readers back to the sights and sounds of the 1800s. I will certainly recommend this book to others....it is a great history lesson for readers of all ages
Jane H. (Indianola, IA)

The Secrets of Mary Bowser
This outstanding book is based on the true story of Mary Van Lew Bowser, a Black slave of the Civil War period. Raised as a house slave by the Van Lew family, Mary is given her freedom and sent to Philadelphia to be educated. As a free Black, Mary encounters many of the same problems she had in the South - non-acceptance by most whites, hypocrisy, and black snobbery.

Remembering her mother, who is also free, but chose to stay behind to be with Mary's father, Mary feels she must do something to help the Southern slaves.She becomes involved in the Underground Railroad, but when the Civil War breaks out she returns to Virginia as a Northern Spy.

This book is a 'Must Read'! Beautifully written, it is based on a real person who lived and witnessed a side of the Civil War not found in text books. The treatment of the Black slaves in the South is heartbreaking. A new American Classic!
Barbie R. (Jamestown, PA)

Profound new author in historical fiction
Great historical fiction makes you forget that you know the ending, so that you may learn it anew. Lois Leveen has a beautiful way with words, a call a friend and read aloud voice. The characters are deep and rich and the many definitions and struggles of freedom may change the way you think of the Civil War. A must read for anyone who wishes to step into historical Richmond.

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