SOCIAL SCIENCES

The Lowells of Massachusetts: An American Family

St. Martin's. Apr. 2017. 400p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781250069207. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466878112. BIOG
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In her multigenerational biography of the Lowell family, Sankovitch (Tolstoy and the Purple Chair) uses the family's motto of Occasionem Cognosce ("Seize the Opportunity") as her central theme, illustrating how the Puritan values of hard work and commitment to community shaped the Lowells into a quintessential New England dynasty. From the family's establishment in Massachusetts by patriarch Percival in the 17th century to the groundbreaking work of poet Amy Lowell in the 20th century, Sankovitch charts the successes and struggles of prominent Lowell men and women, including industrialist Francis Cabot Lowell and Union officer Charles Russell Lowell. Chapters dedicated to the poet and essayist James Russell Lowell, whose artistry was inspired by his personal experiences with love and grief, are particularly engaging, as is the depiction of how the issue of slavery divided Lowell family loyalties in the decades before the Civil War. Sankovitch's use of interpretative passages breathe color into descriptions of the home life of various Lowells, adding an artistic dimension to the account. Her ability to switch the focus among family members while keeping readers fully engaged in the narrative is a significant achievement.
VERDICT Recommended for readers of biography and American history.
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