New Hampshire, 1796. “My name is Ona Judge, and I escaped from the household of the President of the United States. I was the favored maid of George and Martha Washington, but they deemed me a slave and thought me property, and I hear ten dollars is offered as reward for my capture. Now I must write the truth that I have lived, and tell my story…”
Chincoteague, Virginia, present day. Rain soaks Tessa Scott as she runs from her car to the old, vine-covered property she has been called to survey. She’s too busy to accept a new job, but doing this favor for the grandmother of her childhood sweetheart delays a painful decision she must make about a future with her controlling boyfriend.
But when Tessa finds a tattered journal carefully hidden inside the house’s ancient fireplace, the tragic story of how Ona was ripped from her mother’s arms to live and work in the palatial Mount Vernon, and the heart-shattering betrayal that led her to risk her life and run, has Tessa spellbound. Could discovering this forgotten scandal at the heart of her nation’s history force her to confront her own story? As she races to reach the final page, will anything prepare her for the desperate moment when Ona’s captors find her again? Will it inspire Tessa to take ownership of her own life and set herself free?
A completely heartbreaking tale of love, loss and redemption, based on an astonishing true story from the founding of America. Perfect for fans of Before We Were Yours, Marie Benedict and America’s First Daughter.
This is the story of Ona Judge, who grew up enslaved at Mount Vernon, owned by George and Martha Washington. It is a dual timeline novel, with Tessa in the modern-day storyline discovering the diary of Ona hidden in an old house.
The story of Ona’s life while enslaved, her treatment by the Washingtons, and her eventual attempt to escape is fascinating. The depiction of George Washington as a wily slave-owner who moved his slaves back and forth between states in order to avoid emancipation laws is definitely disturbing. The author’s depiction of life at Mount Vernon is shocking and makes this a heartbreaking read. The modern-day timeline of Tessa is not very interesting and not needed. Ona’s story could have stood on its own.
I recommend this as a realistic take on the life of George Washington and slavery in the U.S.
I received a free copy of this book from Bookouture via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suzette D. Harrison, a native Californian and the middle of three daughters, grew up in a home where reading was required, not requested. Her literary “career” began in junior high school with the publishing of her poetry. While Suzette pays homage to Alex Haley, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, and Toni Morrison as legends who inspired her creativity, it was Dr. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that unleashed her writing. The award-winning author of Taffy is a wife and mother of two teens, and she holds a culinary degree in pastry and baking. Mrs. Harrison is currently cooking up her next novel…in between batches of cupcakes.
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