The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen is based on a true story and that alone makes it a remarkable tale. What is more remarkable is the woman, Mary Bowser, that it is based on. She is a woman who risked her own life and freedom to fight for the freedom of all slaves and in the course of things changed history.
Mary was born into slavery as both of her parents were slaves. Mary and her mother worked for the Van Lew’s and her father was a slave for another man. The Van Lew’s were an affluent family with money and as far as slave owners went they were better than most to their slaves. One of the family in particular – Bet Van Lew- was one who didn’t believe in slavery at all. Over time she recognizes just how intelligent Mary is which prompts her to offer to send Mary to Philadelphia for an education. At first Mary’s mother doesn’t want this at all. To lose her daughter isn’t anything she can live with but her husband makes her see the benefits for Mary. Their daughter will be free and maybe able to have a life; certainly more than slavery would ever offer for her.
For Mary, Philadelphia opens her eyes to a different life. She makes a true friend in Hattie and even meets a young man. While she likes him enough he isn’t the type of man she will settle with as he isn’t as passionate about her vision of helping to abolish slavery as she is. When she learns that Hattie’s father is involved in helping slaves get to freedom and they need her help she makes the decision to get involved. She thinks back on how many times her mama told her that Jesus had a vision for her to be something more and to make a difference in life. This is what she feels she was meant for. Then the news comes from Bet that her father isn’t doing the best anymore and she knows what she has to do. She’s meant to go home and spent whatever time there is with her father and to help from the other side in helping to free her people from slavery.
In going home to Richmond another man catches her eye and this time it’s one who doesn’t hold her back but encourages her to live the life she wants to and supports her in her efforts to fight for her and his people as they share this passion together. As the war begins and escalates Mary takes more and more risks for her cause even going as far as to become a slave in the Confederate White House so she can spy on President Davis and report back for to the Union command – to those fighting for the emancipation of slaves.
This is an amazing novel and a story worth telling. It takes us back to a time when owning slaves was just what some people did and so many owners were not good to the slaves they owned. It’s hard to say I enjoy books on slavery because that’s not true and yet I do like to read any I can and it’s because the very idea horrifies me. I can’t understand being cruel to people no matter what their race or religion or anything else is for that matter. The thought of thinking it’s ok to own any human being and hurt them is beyond me. For that reason I will continue to read and talk about these books. The Secrets of Mary Bowser is a story worth telling that is rich in historical detail and well worth reading!
I read The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen for her book tour with TLC Book Tours. Be sure to check out all the other tour stops to see what others are saying about the book. You can find Lois on her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter. To end I’ll leave you with the book trailer. Enjoy…
Source: Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours via the Publisher. No compensation was received for this review and all opinions are my own.
Wow! What a remarkable woman. The book cover is gorgeous. Adding this to my TBR.
bermudaonion (Kathy) says
I like the fact that this is based on a true story. Mary must have been an amazing woman – I can imagine it was hard for her mother to let her go.
This sounds like an amazing story about an amazing woman. I know what you mean about not liking to read about slavery, but about wanting to learn about stories such as these and share them. Great review Dar!
I’ve had this on my list to read — so I’m glad you thought it was good. I like the history tales based on true stories. This one looks interesting.
This woman’s story sounds like one I would enjoy reading; what courage she had.
I have seen this book on a few blogs and have been interested in it. More so now, after reading your review.
I’m going to have to read this one. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book, and now you’re review… It sounds fantastic!
Wow, she does sound like such a remarkable woman!
This sounds like an amazing read! And to have based on a true story piques my interest so much more. I’m definitely going to have to get my hands on this one at some point. Great review!
I have this in my tbr stack and thought it looked like a good story. I hate to read about slavery but I love to read about those who survived during that horrible time. I like that this is based on a true story! Great review Dar!
I also feel uncomfortable reading books about slavery, but some of the ones I have read have been the most intense and transformative reads that I have ever read. It seems that this book was that way for you, Dar, and I really enjoyed your review and the way that you totally dissected all the crucial bits for your readers. Excellent review today!
I almost signed up for this tour and it sounds like a great story. I’m sure I will be adding this one to my must read list!
Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours says
I often wonder how I would feel about slavery if I were born in the pre-Civil War days … it’s a rather disturbing thing to imagine.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour!
This sounds like such a great read! Thanks for reviewing this and putting it on my radar. I normally don’t enjoy civil war era books, but this one intrigues me.