The First Ladies

Books on Tape. Jun. 2023. 14:30 hrs. ISBN 9780593684276. $95. F
Benedict and Murray offer a second collaborative work (following The Personal Librarian), chronicling the friendship between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, who meet in 1927 at a women’s luncheon and immediately sense a connection. Mary, already a well-known educator and activist, is a loyal member of the Republican party; Eleanor is working on behalf of her husband, currently serving as governor of New York but considering a run for the presidency. The chapters alternate between Eleanor’s perspective (narrated by Tavia Gilbert) and Mary’s (voiced by Robin Miles) and clearly show how racism and segregation impact their interactions and society’s expectations for how they should behave. Eleanor and Mary begin by working together on governmental and educational reforms and eventually develop a warm personal friendship that endures for decades. Miles and Gilbert provide evocative, sensitive performances, although the subtle distinctions between their depictions can be confusing.
VERDICT Fans of Benedict and Murray’s first book will be delighted with this well-researched account of a groundbreaking friendship. Recommended for those who enjoyed Kelly O’Connor McNees’s Undiscovered Country.
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