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Book Review: “Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation”

Have you ever found yourself reading more and more books from a certain genre that you didn’t think you loved, and all of a sudden, you realize it’s your new favorite?  For years, I’ve told people that I read fantasy and science fiction over anything else.  But it’s time to face the music and lower my Ollivander wand.  My new favorite genre?  Narrative nonfiction.

It sounds ridiculous to go from Fantasy to Nonfiction, but it’s true.  That’s not because I’ve stopped loving everything related to magic spells, dragons, space battles, and aliens.  Rather, I’ve found that books about history can provide the same entertainment as books about magical worlds.  Both of them take me on adventures to places that I’ve never seen before with interesting people that I will never meet.

In the latest book that I finished, Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, author Cokie Roberts describes the Revolutionary War and the founding of the United States from the perspectives of the women related to the Founding Fathers.  These include Mercy Otis Warren, Martha Washington, and Abigail Adams, as well as lesser-known women like Benjamin Franklin’s wife, Deborah.

Each chapter covers a different span of years rather than a specific person.  Roberts bounces back and forth between the lives of the women who made contributions to history during the pre-war years, the beginning of the war, the end of the war, and so forth.  This can make the reading experience a little confusing because Roberts has so many stories to tell about each woman.  You might read about one family and then not hear about them again for a couple of chapters.  Luckily, the book has a “Who’s Who” guide at the end, which helps one keep track of everybody.

Founding Mothers has many entertaining stories to enjoy.  The mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives of the Founding Fathers played a variety of roles for our country.  Some raised money for the troops, others wrote propaganda, a few enlisted in the army, and some acted as sounding boards for their husbands in Congress.   My favorite stories included the letters between Abigail and John Adams, and the life of Deborah Franklin, who had to endure her famous husband spending so much time in Europe that he wouldn’t even come home for his daughter’s wedding!  Alexander Hamilton and the Schuyler Sisters also feature throughout the book, so Hamilton fans will have fun reading it.

That said, Cokie Roberts has a writing style that won’t work for everyone.  She tells each story in a conversational tone.  While presenting the facts, she occasionally adds her own commentary, such as:  “So much for the press and politicians!” (p. 36) and “Sounds like some elections I’ve covered.” (p. 260)  I didn’t mind, but if you’re the type of reader who would rather make your own interpretations, you may not enjoy constantly hearing the author’s opinions throughout this book.

Although Roberts’ style might not work for everyone, the content of the book makes it worth reading.  It’s a nice look at the women who helped make the United States a real, independent nation.

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