#COLLABOREADS: A Name in the Title


If you're just hearing about #Collaboreads for the first time, here's the short summary: for the month of July, Amber and I decided the topic would be "a book with a name in the title," and anyone who was interested could choose one, read it throughout July, and then today, they'll publish their review (we gave an acrostic of R.E.A.D.S. that everyone can use for this!) and link-up with us at the very bottom of this post or on Amber's.

Here's what the inside flap of this book says (since it's not super well-known and I doubt you've seen it or heard of it before!): All her life, Mary has been a slave to the wealthy Van Lew family of Richmond, Virginia. But when Bet, the willful Van Lew daughter, decides to send Mary to Philadelphia to be educated, she must leave her family to seize her freedom. Life in the North brings new friendships, a courtship, and a far different education than Mary ever expected, one that leads her into the heart of the abolition movement. With the nation edging toward war she defies Virginia law by returning to Richmond to care for her ailing father-- and to fight for emancipation. Posing as a slave in the Confederate White House in order to spy on President Jefferson Davis, Mary deceives even those who are closest to her to aid the Union command. Just when it seems that all her courageous gambles to end slavery will pay off, Mary discovers that everything comes at a cost-- even freedom.

What part of the book could you NOT get enough of? 

Knowing this book was based on a real woman, Mary Bowser, who was born a slave in Richmond, VA (my city!) and was freed and educated in the North but came back to the South to fight for freedom as a Union spy, I was instantly engrossed in this story. I loved all the Richmond references and imagining my city back in the 1800s. I don't know that anyone else will think that's even remotely interesting, but I absolutely loved that about this book!

This girl is GUTSY. She made choices and did things I could never even imagine doing myself, so I became her biggest fan and admirer as I saw how relentlessly she fought for freedom even after she was free herself.

How did you relate to/care for the characters?
What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns? 

The main character, Mary, grows up from a young girl in this book, and you see the world (the good, the bad, the unfair, the challenging, and the exciting) through her eyes in a way that makes you connect with her. You like who she likes and feel what she feels. Many other characters play significant roles in her life over the years, and her parents especially will tug at your heartstrings. Despite being born into slavery, Mary has amazing people in her life who root for her and provide for her and give her opportunities many would have only dreamt of, and you are grateful while reading that those people exist for her.

The plot line was slow in parts, and after reading the inside flap that talked about Mary being a spy in the Confederate White House, I was surprised it took more than half the book to get to that. What I liked about that, though, was that I knew Mary well. I had seen her grow from a five year old to a strong, independent, courageous and intelligent woman who fought for freedom with every ounce of her. I loved how this book ended, too, but I won't give it away!

What other books are like this one?
If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with its themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now? 

This book is similar (because of the timeframe and genre and general content) to books like The Help, To Kill a Mockingbird, books by Sue Monk Kidd, etc, but very different in the approach and angle. Like Amber said last month, I keep finding myself drawn to books from the Civil Rights era because of all the recent headlines and tragedies centered on race. I'm simultaneously amazed at how far we've come in so short a time, and also how little has changed. Books like these help me understand the bigger picture and enter the conversations happening today with a better understanding and more awareness.

You know you judged this book by the cover.
What did you think of it? How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages? 

The cover has a metal key laying on a handwritten page, and while it looks representative of the time the book is set in, it's not particularly remarkable or exciting as a cover. The pages are the rough edged kind that make it seem like you're reading an old journal, which again, felt appropriate for the nature of this book. 

How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?

Four out of five stars for this one! I would especially recommend it to friends who live in Richmond, friends interested in the Civil Rights era, or friends who have read other books in a similar style/genre and enjoyed them.


Share your post here, and go leave love for everyone else! An added bonus? Reading all these posts will give your to-read list a bunch of new additions!

Now, for NEXT MONTH:

The topic for August is "A book set in the summertime" and we hope you'll find a book, read it throughout August, and link up with us again on August 31! 

Here's a list of books set in summer if you need some ideas!