MRS. LEE AND MRS. GRAY by Dorothy Love_Spotlight and Review
Centered on the extraordinary lifelong friendship between Mary Anna Custis Lee -- a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington and the wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee -- and Selina Norris Gray -- a black woman born into slavery at Arlington who became Mary Lee's personal maid, head housekeeper, and confidante -- Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray explores the dynamics of a powerful alliance that transcended race, culture, and the turmoil of war, and paints “a sympathetic portrait of these two women that both engages and educates the reader” (Publishers Weekly.)
Like Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings and Jennifer Chiaverini’s Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, Dorothy Love’s Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray is the story of a complex relationship between mistress and slave that left an indelible mark on our common history.
Told in alternating voices, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray reveals:
• The unfolding of a lifelong friendship between mistress and slave
• Selina Gray’s courageous act that resulted in the preservation of historic American treasures
• The hidden strengths and accomplishments of Mary Anna Custis Lee
• The crushing losses and sacrifices both women endured during and after the war
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. (
In this contemporary culture, when Image is Everything, and History is literally a thing of the past, ignored and underappreciated, it is important to bring History to vivid and identifiable life. As we tend to forget, History was made by humans living in their present, humans who had emotions, thoughts, fears, needs, just as do we. Author Dorothy Love shines a beautiful light on two very disparate women who were nonetheless simultaneously products of their divergent cultures, and fast friends throughout. Kudos to Ms. Love for bringing this pair to our reckoning, and for humanizing a brutally heartwrenching era in American history.