The Abolitionist's Daughter

The Abolitionist's Daughter

by Diane C. McPhail


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In her sweeping debut, Diane C. McPhail offers a powerful, profoundly emotional novel that explores a little-known aspect of Civil War history—Southern Abolitionists—and the timeless struggle to do right even amidst bitter conflict.
On a Mississippi morning in 1859, Emily Matthews begs her father to save a slave, Nathan, about to be auctioned away from his family. Judge Matthews is an abolitionist who runs an illegal school for his slaves, hoping to eventually set them free. One, a woman named Ginny, has become Emily’s companion and often her conscience—and understands all too well the hazards an educated slave must face. Yet even Ginny could not predict the tangled, tragic string of events set in motion as Nathan’s family arrives at the Matthews farm.
A young doctor, Charles Slate, tends to injured Nathan and begins to court Emily, finally persuading her to become his wife. But their union is disrupted by a fatal clash and a lie that will tear two families apart. As Civil War erupts, Emily, Ginny, and Emily’s stoic mother-in-law, Adeline, each face devastating losses. Emily—sheltered all her life—is especially unprepared for the hardships to come. Struggling to survive in this raw, shifting new world, Emily will discover untapped inner strength, an unlikely love, and the courage to confront deep, painful truths.
In the tradition of Cold Mountain, The Abolitionist’s Daughter eschews stereotypes of the Civil War South, instead weaving an intricate and unforgettable story of survival, loyalty, hope, and redemption.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496720306
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 04/30/2019
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 47,772
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Diane C. McPhail is an artist, writer, and minister. In addition to holding an M.F.A., an M.A., and D.Min., she has studied at the University of Iowa distance learning and the Yale Writers’ Workshop, among others. Diane is a member of North Carolina Writers' Network and the Historical Novel Society. She lives in Highlands, North Carolina, with her husband, and her dog, Pepper.

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The Abolitionist's Daughter 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous 25 days ago
brf1948 3 months ago
The Abolitionist's Daughter is an intricate, involved story of family, of the misunderstandings and divided loyalties that result in unapproachable rifts, and of the cost of freedom. Freedom from doubt, freedom of choice, freedom to love. The backstory of a country at war with itself and the verdant glory that is the lower Mississippi delta make this a book to savor. An outspoken proponent of manumission, plantation owner Judge Matthews was considered an oddity in Greensboro, Mississippi even after the war between the states broke out. Well respected by the people of Greensboro, he was allowed his idiosyncrasies and could be counted on to bring fairness to the table when sorting out problems in the community. To his oldest son Will and shy, motherless daughter Emily, he could do no wrong. Youngest son Jeremiah was a different story altogether. Adeline Slate is the hard working mother of two sons and a daughter. Husband Thomas is a drunkard long delegated to the shed in the back yard. Adaline runs their small farm with the help of her youngest son Hammond. Oldest son Charles is a young medical doctor with a growing practice in Greensboro and a plan to marry Emily Matthews. Daughter Belinda, though considered a bit odd, has a hankering for Will Matthews, a widower who lost his first wife and son in childbirth. Everything seems settled, everyone should be content. With their marriages, the Judge turns over to his children starter homes with the accompanying family land to be held for the next generations of the family. But even before casualties from war battles begin coming home, the family graveyards are filling up. Will there be anyone left in the Matthews family, the Slate family, when all is said and done? I received a free electronic copy of this historical novel from Netgalley, Diane C. McPhail, and John Scognamiglio, Kensington Books. I have read and reviewed this Civil War tale of my own volition. This review reflects my personal opinion of this work.
ThePedestrianEquestrian 3 months ago
The Abolitionist’s Daughter immediately caught my eye when I saw the cover as I scrolled through the NetGalley list of books available for request. Its haunting imagery evoked a sense of anguish, and without even knowing what it was about, I knew I had to read it. I wasn’t particularly looking for another historical fiction, but was impressed by the description provided, so I hit “Request”. It took quite awhile for me to get approved so I was pleasantly surprised when the email showed up in my inbox that I had been. It also came at the same time as several other books all at once, and due to the way the publication dates fell, I didn’t get to this one as fast as I wanted. Nonetheless it turned out to be well worth the wait. The story is mainly focused on Emily Slate (nee Matthews), daughter of Judge Matthews, a Southern Abolitionist in Greensboro, Mississippi in 1859. Judge Matthews is a man who has to carefully walk the line of progressive abolitionist, while still maintaining the trust of the townsfolk, many of whom enjoy privileged lives as slave owners, in order to keep his job. He is a man of integrity who goes out of his way to purchase entire families of slaves when only a husband is being offered on the sale block. This propensity for small acts of kindness is the first thing the reader learns of Judge Matthews, when Emily sees a sign posted with three slaves for sale. One of the slaves, Nathan, has a wife and children, who slave owner Holbert Conklin is retaining ownership of. Judge Matthews makes Conklin an offer he can’t refuse and is delivered Jessie, two children, and Nathan, who arrives with a broken arm and several other injuries, allegedly from falling off a porch while drunk. Judge Matthews is a fair and logical man, and a decent slave owner, who knows the difficulty for a slave to obtain the amount of liquor that would be necessary to render Nathan to such a state, and so he calls for the Doctor, Charles Slate, to come tend to Nathan’s injuries. It’s during this visit that Charles Slate, son of Thomas Slate, a mean local drunk, first sees Emily, and begins to court her. Their marriage seems inevitable and despite Judge Matthews’ misgivings, he keeps his opinions to himself and allows his daughter to be wed to the Doctor. Emily has led a privileged life, and is given a plot of land with a house for her and her husband. Shortly after their marriage, Emily’s eldest brother William is wedded to Charles’ younger sister, and Emily’s former classmate, Belinda. This marriage is also graciously given a house and plot of land as well by the Judge, however both are with quiet stipulations. As so begins the conflict between the Slate’s and the Matthews’. Charles Slate is a man of less than scrupulous character, and as McPhail intended, I didn’t much care for him or his antics. A cheater and a drinker, he took advantage of Emily’s naivety to cater to his own desires. As his wife was at home tending to their child, his horse was often hitched outside the town brothel for longer than was proper for it to simply be a doctor’s house call. Charles had no shame in his indiscretions, even in full view of the courthouse across the street, where his father in law’s office window could plainly see what he was up to. Judge Matthews wished no pain to befall his precious daughter though, and so he keeps this information to himself. But Emily is a smart woman and begins to recognise that something is amiss when Charles decides that perhaps s
Anonymous 3 months ago
The Abolitionist's Daugher by Diane McPhail was not what I expected. Emily was the daughter of a judge who lived in Mississippi, but did not believe in slavery. When the judge heard of slaves who were mistreated, or slave families who were about to be split, he would purchase them. He wrote papers to free his slaves, but the law in Mississippi made it illegal to free a slave. Because of his beliefs, Emily did not have many suitors. When Charles, a young doctor, came to court Emily, she was swept away by his attention. After they married, Emily's brother, Will, married Charles's sister, Belinda. In a convoluted story that includes land, inheritance set amid the Civil Way, Emily has to survive tragedy after tragedy. Will she ever know peace and happiness? There was no underground railroad, or slaves escaping, which was what I expected to see in the book about abolitionists.
PegGlover 4 months ago
The Abolitionist’s Daughter takes place in Greensboro, Mississippi, during the Civil War. Judge Matthews despised slavery, with a passion, yet he owned an abundance of slaves. Some might think that he was a hypocrite, but he wasn’t. The judge would buy slaves who were severely abused by their owners or about to be separated from their families. He would educate the slaves and care for their needs. And, even though it was illegal to grant slaves their freedom, the judge prepared freedom papers for each one. He wanted to be ready, for whenever their liberation day came. His daughter, Emily, was his best advocate. The judge worried, however, that his controversial anti-slavery practices lessened the number of suitors for his daughter. He was right. So when a young doctor, Charles Slate, asked to marry Emily, the judge readily gave his consent. He feared, however, that he might have made a mistake. Ms. McPhail crafts The Abolitionist’s Daughter with enough authentic details, and local dialect, that the characters came to life. She also depicts the ugliness and horrors of slavery in this story, as well as the kind and understanding way some owners cared for their slaves. This book is about love, loyalty, forgiveness, abuse, and redemption. I found the pacing slow at times, but the story captivating. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction novel. Thank you, Kensington Books and NetGalley, for my advanced review copy.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Emily is a young woman who is sheltered from the world by her father. She is the middle child between two brothers. Her older brother, William, is the golden son. He is handsome, charming, and all things that make parents proud. Her younger brother is the troublesome child whose birth led to their mother's death, and a life of angst of knowing he is the reason for such a tragedy. The story starts with Emily walking with Ginny when Emily spots a flier for a slave for sale; a slave with a wife and child not included. After speaking with her father, a lawyer who despises slavery and how people of different races are treated, he talks with the slave owner. The owner of the slave for sale agrees to a price for the whole family unit, but is not happy about such a deal and abuses the man, Nathan, before handing him and his family over to the Matthews family, causing permanent damage. Emily then later on meets Charles whom I cannot (let's repeat: CANNOT) stand. He is a doctor and a known ladies man who is self centered and does not know when to stop and listen to those wiser souls around him. Through the many trials and tribulations of Emily's life after marriage, she has obvious growth as a person. She never becomes perfect because perfection is simply not possible. She is beautifully flawed. She has a heart of gold, even though she lets her own judgement get in the way of relationships and the road to forgiveness. Bonus: Jane Eyre, one of my favorite classics, is mentioned quite a bit! 5 Stars I loved this book. I truly adored the growth we see in all the characters. I love how the story flowed, how it felt a tiny bit like Gone With the Wind with the era and other various aspects. As much as I loved Emily, Ginny had my heart. Ginny held such a depth of knowledge from living her life as a slave. Even under Emily's father, though well treated, they were still slaves. Ginny raised Emily, despite there being only a few years difference in age and often refers to herself as Emily's sister-mother. The two girls were schooled together and Ginny learned how to talk what was considered the proper southern manner. Ginny is undoubtedly a powerful character in this story. I wish the author would grant us a story based completely on her. She is there for Emily through all of her major life events, even when Emily thought she was doing something good for a child of one of her father's slaves that she inherits. The child is born lighter skinned, half African American and half Caucasian, and Emily wants to have that child come live with her and be educated and try to blend it into her society. Ginny, on the other hand, tells Emily how cruel it would be to take the child away from the loving parents. She also tells Emily that all children should be allowed the same chance at life as that lighter skinned child, that skin color should not decide what child gets a better education or chance at a happy life. Let me say this again; Ginny is amazing. There are many beautiful moments in this book to balance the heavy truths and painful moments of Emily's life. This author did an absolutely stunning job on this book. It would definitely be worth your time, and I strong encourage you to do so, to pick up a copy of this book and read it; truly read it. This is one of those stories that will stick with you for a very long time.