Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters
by Chiaverini, Jennifer






Devastated by her 1875 suicide attempt, the sisters of widowed former First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln navigate the consequences of their husbands' choices while advocating for Mary's needs.





In her latest Civil War-era novel featuring Mary Todd Lincoln (Mrs. Lincoln's Rival, 2014; Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, 2013), Chiaverini focuses on four of her sisters. A decade after the assassination of President Lincoln, Elizabeth, the oldest, learns that her estranged younger sister has been declared legally insane and committed to an asylum outside Chicago. Compelled by the bonds of sisterhood, Elizabeth offers Mary refuge in her house in Springfield and attempts to rally sisters Frances, Ann, and Emilie in support. But Mary's relationships with nearly every member of her family has been strained, first by the war and then by Mary's increasingly paranoid behavior. Moving backward and forward in time and shifting between the viewpoints of the Todd sisters, Chiaverini gradually reveals the family history behind the rifts and the bonds that remain. Through meticulously researched historical detail and sympathetic portrayal of each character, including Mary herself, Chiaverini provides a fascinating glimpse into the women of an influential family on the front lines of some of the most important moments of that indelible time. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.





In 1875, Robert Lincoln committed his mother to an asylum for the insane. How did former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln fall from grace to incarceration at Bellevue Place? Well known for her extensive Elm Creek Quilts series, Chiaverini now returns to the intimate circles of the political elite during the Civil War era, which she most recently explored with Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker (2013). Leaving behind the often distracting intricacies of quilt- and dressmaking, Chiaverini builds a believable domestic sphere in which the women surrounding Mary—women who have also mourned the losses of husbands and children—try to puzzle out when she began to lose her sanity and whether her griefs truly transcend their own. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different sister, which leaves Mary's own thoughts and intentions tantalizingly mysterious. Mary's three sisters—Elizabeth, Frances, and Ann—each recall Mary's early life, from being the apple of her father's eye to being banished to boarding school by her uncharmed stepmother to her surprising marriage to Abraham Lincoln. Once the Lincolns moved into the White House, h er sisters recall, Mary's quirks, including holding grudges and indulging in shopping sprees, became cause for marital strife and national criticism. The subsequent deaths of three sons, as well as Abe's assassination, plunged Mary into the crisis that eventually led her remaining son, Robert, to have her committed. But as the sisters valiantly try to explain away Mary's eccentric behavior, Mary again descends into paranoia and threats of violence. An engaging glimpse of women's privilege and anguish during the Civil War era. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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