Title: Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray
Author: Dorothy Love
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
My rating is 4 stars.
This story is based on a real friendship between Selina Gray, a slave and her owner, Mary Custis Lee. The story begins when Mary is a teenager and finds the love of her life, Robert E. Lee. They eventually marry, have children and live life. Selina is a young girl when the story begins with Mary teaching her how to read. Selina over time is put to work in the house, serving Mary’s mother and then Mary herself. While Selina is grateful for Mary teaching her how to read, she yearns for Mary’s father to set her free. Mary and her mother are members of a society that raises money to send former slaves to Liberia to start a new life.
As Selina and Mary age, Mary especially suffers heartache. Her husband is gone for months and sometimes years at a time, serving in the military while leaving Mary to raise their seven children. This novel portrays a loving relationship between Mary and Robert, even though Mary knows from early on in her marriage that duty comes first with Robert. In this story, Mary is seen to always put his needs first and herself second something Selina also knows firsthand as she has to put the needs of her owner(s) first, then Selina’s family, then herself.
While this novel is not brimming with action, suspense and chase scenes, it does a fine job of chronicling a friendship spanning fifty years between a slave and her owner. The two women in question were born and bred in the South with its attendant culture. Selina has always longed to be free and never forgets that Mary owns her. For me, the friendship aspect didn’t seem too obvious. Mary always treated Selina as a servant, with maybe the exception of when they went sledding as young women. The older Mary gets, the more heavily she depends on Selina. When they are forced apart due to the Civil War, Mary entrusts her home to Selina. This was not a book that really grabbed my attention and held it, but it was interesting to read this fictional account about a character from history that I knew nothing about and what her life might have been like. The author really did her research, and I thought the depiction of Mary in a new, more positive light than other books was a different twist.