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The Secrets of Mary Bowser: A Novel    by Lois Leveen order for
Secrets of Mary Bowser
by Lois Leveen
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2012 (2012)
Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen is based on the true story of a black child born and raised in slavery, being freed and spending the Civil War years as a spy for the Union!

Mary's mother was a slave in the Van Lew home in Richmond, Virginia, and her father was owned by the man who ran a smithy. Her parents were given permission to marry but were not allowed to live together.

The Van Lews were considered one of the FFVs. The First Families of Virginia. The Van Lew's daughter Bet didn't believe in slavery and when Bet inherited money, she bought all the slaves at her house from her mother and set them free. She paid for Mary to go to Philadelphia to a colored school.

When the Civil War was imminent, Mary returned to Virginia even though, if she were found there, she could be auctioned off as a slave once again. She wanted to take care of her dear father while she took on the role of spying for the Union.

The Secrets of Mary Bowser is a remarkable story of a remarkable woman who worked as a housemaid in the Van Lew house where Jefferson Davis was quartered! I found it very easy to get caught up in the novel and marveled at the chances Mary and Bet took to send important information to Union officers.

This is a gracefully written book about a dark blot in U.S. history. The uselessness of war is evident as is the cruelty and suffering brought about by war. That holds true today. A novel not to be missed.

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