The First Ladies

Berkley. Jun. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9780593440285. $28. F
Murray and Benedict (The Personal Librarian) team up again with this novel told in alternating viewpoints by two formidable women. In the United States, in 1927, segregation is the law of the land, no matter what the actual law says. One of the fiercest proponents of equal rights, Mary McLeod Bethune, meets a woman who will herself become a strong proponent of equality, among many other projects: Eleanor Roosevelt. Over the ensuing years, through the Great Depression, and the gubernatorial and presidential terms of Eleanor’s husband Franklin, Mary and Eleanor forge a great alliance of minds and an unshakable bond of sisterhood. Readers will experience events of the late 1920s to late 1940s as they affected the main characters. Both women face personal hurdles, doubts, and negativity, but in the end, they stand strong. While complete desegregation was still a dream away, these two could be proud of the work they accomplished, the foundation upon which the next steps were built.
VERDICT Those who enjoy stirring historical fiction, as well as fans of The Personal Librarian, will find Benedict and Murray’s latest collaboration compelling.
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