source: free ARC via NetGalley / Harper Collins
title: Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters
author: Jennifer Chiaverini
genre: historical fiction
published: June 2, 2020
first line: A whimsical breeze rustled the paper beneath Elizabeth’s pen as she wrote in the garden, but she held the sheet firmly against the table with her left hand and it was not carried aloft.
rated: 5 out of 5 stars
The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker returns to her most famous heroine, Mary Todd Lincoln, in this compelling story of love, loss, and sisterhood rich with history and suspense.
In May 1875, Elizabeth Todd Edwards reels from news that her younger sister Mary, former First Lady and widow of President Abraham Lincoln, has attempted suicide.
Mary’s shocking act followed legal proceedings arranged by her eldest and only surviving son that declared her legally insane. Although they have long been estranged, Elizabeth knows Mary’s tenuous mental health has deteriorated through decades of trauma and loss. Yet is her suicide attempt truly the impulse of a deranged mind, or the desperate act of a sane woman terrified to be committed to an asylum? And—if her sisters can put past grievances aside—is their love powerful enough to save her?
Maternal Elizabeth, peacemaker Frances, envious Ann, and much adored Emilie had always turned to one another in times of joy and heartache, first as children, and later as young wives and mothers. But when Civil War erupted, the conflict that divided a nation shattered their family. The Todd sisters’s fates were bound to their husbands’ choices as some joined the Lincoln administration, others the Confederate Army.
Now, though discord and tragedy have strained their bonds, Elizabeth knows they must come together as sisters to help Mary in her most desperate hour.
As Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters begins, Elizabeth Todd Edwards receives the news that her estranged sister Mary Todd Lincoln has been declared legally insane and is being committed to a mental institution after attempting suicide.
Elizabeth wants to go to her other sisters to see what they can do for Mary. She is willing to bring her estranged sister home to care for her but the other sisters are not so eager to help Mary and even think she may be exaggerating her mental illness for attention. The sisters try to decipher what is truly going on with Mary because they are receiving different accounts regarding the situation. The chapters alternate with flashbacks as the story-line mainly centers around Mary, past and present, as well as on her three sisters Elizabeth, Frances, Ann and Emilie. The Todd’s had a large household. Their mother passed away after childbirth and their father remarried and had several more children. In total Mary Todd had 15 siblings.
I enjoyed diving into this nice piece of historical fiction. The writing was rich and descriptive, the story flowed smoothly and I ended up googling some of it to see what was true to life or not. Lincoln is my favorite president and I find the Civil War incredibly interesting. I finally made it out to Gettysburg this past October which was a fantastic visit.
I enjoyed how author Jennifer Chiaverini brought Mary and her sisters to life on these pages. According to this story, Mary Todd always wanted to marry a future president. Her family was well off and she was well educated. Lincoln was looked at by some as a country bumpkin at first so their courtship was not really approved of by her family. The book portrays Mary as being strong willed and enjoying being the center of attention, but also as having some serious mental issues. She seemed to be very manipulative as well. The flashbacks show her courtship with Abraham Lincoln as a young lawyer at the time, through to their surprise wedding, his presidency and the war and his assassination.
Many of the passages and scenes were moving, especially after the assassination. I never realized some of these sisters sided with the Confederacy and some with the Union and their brothers and even husbands died on the battlefield. In one scene when sister Emilie comes to visit Washington you had to take an oath swearing loyalty to the Union before entering the state, she refused to do so having just lost her Confederate husband in battle.
Thus did Emilie come to realize that while Abe and Mary would not deny that she was visiting, they did not want it widely known to the public. Though this made her uncomfortable, Emilie understood: many in Washington would look askance at a Confederate widow residing at the White House.
82% Kindle, Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters by Jennifer Chiaverini
I recommend Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters if you are looking to get lost in a wonderfully written piece of historical fiction centering around Mary Todd Lincoln and her sisters. I have a non-fiction book on Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd, I need to pick it up soon.
“Who but a sister could a woman count on to truly understand her, even when they did not understand each other at all?- 97% Kindle, Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters
Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I received my free review copy of Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters by Jennifer Chiaverini via NetGalley / Harper Collins in exchange for my honest thoughts. Some of the links in the post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. The photo here is my own and not to be removed from this post.