Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray
by Dorothy Love
A general’s wife and a slave girl forge a friendship that transcends race, culture, and the crucible of Civil War.
Mary Anna Custis Lee is a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, wife of Confederate General Robert E Lee, and heiress to Virginia’s storied Arlington house and General Washington’s personal belongings.
Born in bondage at Arlington, Selina Norris Gray learns to read and write in the schoolroom Mary and her mother keep for the slave children, and eventually becomes Mary’s housekeeper and confidante. As Mary’s health declines, Selina becomes her personal maid, strengthening a bond that lasts until death parts them.
Forced to flee Arlington at the start of the Civil War, Mary entrusts the keys to her beloved home to no one but Selina. When Union troops begin looting the house, it is Selina who confronts their commander and saves many of its historic treasures.
In a story spanning crude slave quarters, sunny schoolrooms, stately wedding parlors, and cramped birthing rooms, novelist Dorothy Love amplifies the astonishing true-life account of an extraordinary alliance and casts fresh light on the tumultuous years leading up to and through the wrenching battle for a nation’s soul.
A classic American tale, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray is the first novel to chronicle this beautiful fifty-year friendship forged at the crossroads of America’s journey from enslavement to emancipation.
My Thoughts: 2½ Stars
Sadly, I was utterly disappointed in Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray. :( It had the ability to be such a great story, but unfortunately, I felt that the characters were incredibly flat, and we really didn’t learn much about them as people.
The synopsis makes it sound like a great story of friendship between Mrs. Lee and her slave, Mrs. Gray, but there really was not much interaction between them at all. It read more like a dry timeline of the life of Mrs. Lee, and really did not touch on the endearing friendship that may have actually existed between the two women.
It also had a dual point of view in the telling of the story, and sometimes the timelines of the story got convoluted when the personal perspective would change. I’m not a huge fan of multiple POV, but if it is done well, you tend to forget it is there. With Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray, that was not the case.
Being a child of the South, I was really looking forward to reading this story and hopefully gaining a new perspective on some parts of history, but sadly, this was not to be. While it was nice to see a timeline of General Lee and his family, I didn’t ever feel like I got to know them in a personal sense, and I certainly did not see much at all of the friendship that the story was supposed to be about.
I realize that I may be in the very small majority that feels disappointed in Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray, but in my personal opinion, it still remains a beautiful story that is yet untold.
If you have read this book, I would love to hear your opinion!
*Sincere thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers and The Fiction Guild for providing me with a complimentary copy to read and review.