Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters by Jennifer Chiaverini
English | 2020 | Historical Fiction | ePUB | 3.3 MB
The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker returns to her most famous heroine, Mary Todd Lincoln, in this compelling story of love, loss, and sisterhood rich with history and suspense.
In May 1875, Elizabeth Todd Edwards reels from news that her younger sister Mary, former First Lady and widow of President Abraham Lincoln, has attempted suicide.
Mary’s shocking act followed legal proceedings arranged by her eldest and only surviving son that declared her legally insane. Although they have long been estranged, Elizabeth knows Mary’s tenuous mental health has deteriorated through decades of trauma and loss. Yet is her suicide attempt truly the impulse of a deranged mind, or the desperate act of a sane woman terrified to be committed to an asylum? And—if her sisters can put past grievances aside—is their love powerful enough to save her?
Maternal Elizabeth, peacemaker Frances, envious Ann, and much adored Emilie had always turned to one another in times of joy and heartache, first as children, and later as young wives and mothers. But when Civil War erupted, the conflict that divided a nation shattered their family. The Todd sisters’s fates were bound to their husbands’ choices as some joined the Lincoln administration, others the Confederate Army.
Now, though discord and tragedy have strained their bonds, Elizabeth knows they must come together as sisters to help Mary in her most desperate hour.
“A statement?” Which misfortune? There were so many from which to choose, not that Elizabeth would know of any recent mishaps, not that she would ever confide in a random stranger who appeared on her doorstep without so much as a—
Then she understood. “You’re with the press,” she said, drawing herself up and fixing him with a withering look.
“Yes, as I said, Philip Smith, Elkhart Gazette.”
“You most certainly did not say.” Grasping the doorknob, she said, “You have no honor, sir, but if you leave now, I won’t summon the police and have you charged with harassment and trespassing. Good day.”
She shut the door firmly and slid the bolt in place, heart pounding, mouth dry. Mr. Smith rang the bell and called her name as she shrank back into the foyer, bewildered and upset. Her family had been tormented by vile stories in the papers through the years, but rarely had a reporter violated the sanctity of their home or sought out Elizabeth in particular. How dare a reporter approach her now? She was a private citizen, not a politician who had deliberately chosen a public life. How could anyone think her so devoid of compassion and loyalty that she would conspire to dredge up ugly incidents from Mary’s past? An estranged sister was a sister yet.
Perhaps Mr. Smith was not looking into Mary’s past but her present.
Elizabeth forced herself to take a deep breath, to think clearly, to remember precisely what he had said. He wanted a statement, not Elizabeth’s reflections upon her sister’s history but her reaction to some new incident. She pressed a hand to her forehead. Oh, Mary. What new scandal had she become entangled in, to the embarrassment and mortification of her family?
Whatever had compelled that reporter to visit Springfield, it was something so dreadful that he had expected to find Elizabeth in distress, and so significant that he assumed she already knew of it. And yet he had found her utterly unaware. How could this be? How had Mr. Smith outpaced the telegraph?
Unsettled, she went to the dining room in search of the morning newspapers, which her husband always read over breakfast. Elizabeth had slept poorly the night before, owing to the ache in her abdomen, and by the time she had risen and dressed, Ninian had already left for work. She did not remember seeing the papers folded on the table in front of his empty chair, and they were not there now. She went next to his study, but the papers were not on his broad mahogany desk. Nor were they in the library, where the tall bookshelves were neatly filled with law books and works of history and natural science, as well as a few popular novels and volumes of poetry. Nary a scrap of newsprint caught her eye.