This story explores the what the lives of Frederick Douglass' wife and mistress must have been like. This is a fascinating story that is rich with so many details about the personal lives and loves of Anna Douglass, the wife of abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, and his mistress, Ottilie Assing. Anna is born to a family of free African-Americans in Maryland long before the Civil War. When she becomes an adult, she finds work as a maid in Baltimore, Maryland where she meets Frederick Douglass who is a slave. The two fall in love and Anna helps Douglass escape slavery. When he reaches the north, he sends for Anna and they are married. Sadly, the two only spend a short while happy together. Douglass immediately becomes involved in anti-slavery work and loses interest in Anna. She cannot read and when Douglass insists she learn, Anna is too busy raising their budding family.
When news comes that Douglass' old captor has sent for him, he must flee. Assisted by the abolitionists where he lives in New England, Douglass decides to sail abroad. But there is one catch. A German woman by the name of Ottilie Assing who has fallen for him, insists on going along. Things are fine at first, but Ottilie becomes more and more fascinated by Douglass and one night makes her interests clear. Douglass resists at first but before long gives into the affair with Ottilie. The two remain abroad for three years together in Europe, traveling and speaking on abolition. Douglass becomes famous and Ottilie finds that he has more women admirers abroad than just her and it makes her jealous to discover that Douglass is not even faithful to her.
When Douglass and Ottilie return to the US, Anna has grown tired of seeing Douglass always out, fighting for the cause. When she discovers that Douglass is having an affair with Ottilie she is mortified and the women are forced to see one another for what they really are. Simply links in Douglass' chain. They all spend a lifetime together and in the end, the two women discover they have more in common than not. This is a fascinating story of love and family and what it means to devote your life to a cause.
Best part of story, including ending:
I loved the richness with which the author explored the lives of these two women from very different places. She managed to capture each of their tones, making the experience vivid and unique for the reader.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Anna decided to go crabbing and rallied her entire family to assist her with the chore. In the end, they made crab patties and sold them to people around town. It was great to read because I found myself feeling as happy about it as the characters. It was also symbolic of the power of intuition, and the unseen, which are powerful themes in this book
Opinion about the main character:
I loved how loving Anna was. Although she was mistreated by her husband, Anna never turned that unkindness on others. She loved her children most of all and always did what was best for them no matter her own pride. I was amazed by the level of warmth and depth attributed to a character that could not even read. But it felt natural. Anna was graceful and sharp, simply exquisite. This goes to show that there is a whole world beyond what was considered formal education and Anna was everything good and sweet of it. I loved her.