Lois Leveen

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

A powerful debut novel with the rich detail of Cold Mountain and the strong female bonds of The Help.

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 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.
Based on the true story of one daring woman willing to sacrifice her own freedom to change the course of history.
"A brilliant historical novel . . . a rich, layered story of slavery, of the South and of what it means to fight for what we believe in, no matter the cost."
Shelf Awareness
"Deftly integrating historical research into this gripping tale of adventure, love, and national conflict, Leveen brings Mary to life and evenhandedly reveals the humanity on both sides of America's deadliest war."
Publishers Weekly
"Masterfully written ... Balancing fire and grace, the story is an ethical journey we won't soon forget, one that takes us from hatred to courage to love."

— Brunonia Barry, best-selling author of The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places
"A captivating novel . . . Mary's world is nuanced and complicated. . . the reader is thoroughly drawn into it."
The Oregonian
"Beautifully written . . . a gripping book."
The Toronto Star
"Told with clarity, confidence, and courage . . . A riveting and powerful book."

— Naseem Rakha, best-selling author of The Crying Tree
"This book has 'best seller' written all over it. The Secrets of Mary Bowser is not only fascinating reading, but also historical fiction of the highest caliber."
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"Packed with drama, intrigue, love, loss, and, most of all, the resilience of a remarkable heroine who forges her own destiny. What a treat!"

— Kelly O'Connor McNees, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
"Deftly balancing history, romance and adventure, Leveen honors the life and historical importance of a brave, resourceful woman."

Kirkus Review
Written with immense heart, an illuminating and inspiring tale of injustice and courage, friendship and war.
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