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A novel about the extraordinary partnership between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune—an unlikely friendship that changed the world, from the New York Times bestselling authors of the Good Morning America Book Club pick The Personal Librarian.
The daughter of formerly enslaved parents, Mary McLeod Bethune refuses to back down as white supremacists attempt to thwart her work. She marches on as an activist and an educator, and as her reputation grows she becomes a celebrity, revered by titans of business and recognized by U.S. Presidents. Eleanor Roosevelt herself is awestruck and eager to make her acquaintance. Initially drawn together because of their shared belief in women’s rights and the power of education, Mary and Eleanor become fast friends confiding their secrets, hopes and dreams—and holding each other’s hands through tragedy and triumph.
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected president, the two women begin to collaborate more closely, particularly as Eleanor moves toward her own agenda separate from FDR, a consequence of the devastating discovery of her husband’s secret love affair. Eleanor becomes a controversial First Lady for her outspokenness, particularly on civil rights. And when she receives threats because of her strong ties to Mary, it only fuels the women’s desire to fight together for justice and equality.
This is the story of two different, yet equally formidable, passionate, and committed women, and the way in which their singular friendship helped form the foundation for the modern civil rights movement.
About the Author
Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years of experience as a litigator. A graduate of Boston College and the Boston University School of Law, she is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Her Hidden Genius, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, The Only Woman in the Room, Carnegie's Maid, The Other Einstein, and Lady Clementine. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.
Victoria Christopher Murray is one of the country's top Black contemporary authors with more than one million books in print. She has written more than twenty novels, including the Seven Deadly Sins series and Stand Your Ground, a Library Journal Best Book of the Year. She holds an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business.
“This book will expand your perspective and keep you reading late into the night."
—Dolen Perkins-Valdez, New York Times bestselling author of Take My Hand
“It's an utter joy to watch civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt forge a partnership that changed America: plotting over teacups, negotiating tricky conversations about race and privilege, celebrating their triumphs, and never giving up. The First Ladies is a wonder!"
—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Diamond Eye
“This timely story encapsulates the unmovable power of when two strong minds come together in the name of justice and equality. "
—Sadeqa Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of The House of Eve
“Explores the extraordinary legacies of these two historical figures, while also bringing us into their personal lives and their deep friendship. Benedict and Murray bring their knack for historical fiction to a story of the women's unlikely alliance and the ways their bond and efforts forged the beginnings of the modern civil rights movement.”
“A powerful and unforgettable story of female strength and the triumph of the human spirit.”
—Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of Code Name Sapphire
“I’ve never read a more inspiring story about women raising up other women and working together to try to change the world. A tour de force.”
—Natasha Lester, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Orphan
"Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray herald the beauty and passion of a celebrated friendship across color lines and the complications of history.”
—Vanessa Riley, award-winning author of Queen of Exiles
“This rich, compelling portrait of a friendship between two quiet revolutionaries overturns our ideas about class, race, and gender in the twentieth century… a magnificently moving story, both intimate and monumental, that ultimately delivers a message of reconciliation and hope.”
—Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of The Beach at Summerly
"While the depictions of the women's activism are inspiring, the novel really shines in the behind-the-scenes moments when the women support each other during personal struggles with marital infidelity, illness, and loss. This impeccably researched, relevant novel is a must-read and destined to be a book-club favorite."
—Booklist (starred review)
"Those who enjoy stirring historical fiction, as well as fans of The Personal Librarian, will find Benedict and Murray’s latest collaboration compelling."
—Library Journal (starred review)
"Benedict and Murray deliver a dazzling narrative... a potent tale of two crusading women's accomplishments."
“A compelling and captivating story… I was moved by not only what they were able to accomplish together, but the resilience displayed by both women. But more than anything, it was their friendship that kept me captivated until the very last page. I can’t remember the last time I was so inspired by a novel!”
—ReShonda Tate Billingsley, author of Miss Pearly’s Girls
Praise for The Personal Librarian, a Good Morning America Book Club pick!
“Historical fiction at its best…The Personal Librarian spins a complex tale of deceit and allegiance as told through books.”
—Good Morning America
“Benedict, who is white, and Murray, who is African American, do a good job of depicting the tightrope Belle walked, and her internal conflict from both sides—wanting to adhere to her mother's wishes and move through the world as white even as she longed to show her father she was proud of her race. Like Belle and her employer, Benedict and Murray had almost instant chemistry, and as a result, the book's narrative is seamless...I became hooked.”
“A fascinating story!”
“A marvel of a story. This unflinching look at one woman’s meteoric rise through New York’s high society is enthralling, lyrical, and rife with danger. Belle’s painful secret and her inspiring courage will capture – and break – your heart. Serious kudos to Benedict and Murray for bringing this true story to life.”
—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue
“The Personal Librarian illuminates the extraordinary life of an exceptional, intelligent woman who had to make the impossible choice to live as an imposter or sacrifice everything she’d achieved and deserved. That Belle denied her true identity in order to protect herself and her family from racial persecution speaks not only to her times but also to ours, a hundred years later. All that glitters is not gold. This is a compelling and important story.”
—Therese Anne Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of A Good Neighborhood
“As richly depicted as the lush world of art and literature Belle da Costa Greene presided over…an immersive, sweeping delight as well as an intimate, moving, and powerful portrait of Belle's personal and professional life. An unforgettable, captivating read!”
—Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of Our Last Days in Barcelona
"Meticulously researched, heartbreaking, and inspiring…a fascinating look at a very public figure fighting a deep private battle, whose story still resonates with surprising power and immediacy today."
—Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names
"An untold story that is simply amazing. It's timely and impactful."
—Brenda Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Follow Your Heart
“An intimate and extraordinary conversation with the past. As Belle da Costa Greene achieves her dreams by forsaking an identity, we wonder if we would or could do the same to irrevocably alter the literary world and our family. A novel abundant with culture, art, literature, and romance—the beauty and recklessness of love are revealed with astonishing clarity.”
—Patti Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of Surviving Savannah
“Upon starting this novel, be prepared to do nothing else until you’ve reached its poignant, reflective end. Through brilliant pacing and with painstaking care, Benedict and Murray paint a vibrant portrait of a woman whose accomplishments, relationships, and secretive history were as complex and intriguing as the collections she helped curate…a timely, provocative read perfect for book clubs. I loved it."
—Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of Sold on a Monday
"From the opulent gilded age ballrooms of New York, to the fiercely competitive auction houses of Europe, The Personal Librarian is a poignant story of race, class and one woman’s struggle to live authentically.”
—Renée Rosen, Author of The Social Graces
“The story of Belle da Costa Greene is timely, universal, and enduring. Through it, Benedict and Murray raise questions that are as important now as they were a hundred years ago—questions to which a true historical answer may be less important than the fact that we are continuing to face them in contemporary ways.”
“This fictional account of Greene’s life feels authentic; the authors bring to life not only Belle but all those around her. An excellent piece of historical fiction that many readers will find hard to put down.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“A powerful take on the accomplishments of J.P. Morgan’s librarian…. Benedict and Murray do a great job capturing Belle’s passion and tenacity as she carves a place for herself in a racist male-dominated society. This does fine justice to a remarkable historical figure.”
“Every element of this blockbuster historical novel is compelling and revelatory, beginning with the bedazzling protagonist based with awestruck care on Belle da Costa Greene… a novel of enthralling drama, humor, sensuality, and insight. … [a] resounding tale of a brilliant and resilient woman defying sexism, classism, and racism during the brutality of Jim Crow. Benedict and Murray do splendidly right by Belle in this captivating and profoundly enlightening portrayal.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Kept me intrigued, fascinated, and mesmerized throughout….Everyone should know about the woman who took risks, carved her own path, silenced the naysayers, and forged ahead to becoming one of America’s most prominent librarians in history. Definitely a must-read.”
—The Nerd Daily
"Both a stunning tribute to an amazingly courageous woman and a searingly timely exploration of race relations in America, The Personal Librarian is an extraordinary novel that will have you frantically googling the key figures to learn more. I won’t be ready to part with Belle and her contemporaries for a long time after finishing this one."