By Nancy Schleifer
Local to ?
Xlibris, 978-1-4257-2845-8, $21.99
2007, 275 pages, paperback
A Warrant for Mrs. Lincoln is an elegantly-written, historical novel set in the state of Illinois. A fictional character by the name of Helen serves as the narrator; describing her life as it intertwines with Mary Lincoln’s after Abraham’s death and into her elderly years in the late 19th century. Young Helen (a witness to the President’s assassination) grows up in an oppressive family. Taken in by her uncle as a teenager, she develops an interest in writing for a legal newspaper and attending law school–all in a time when women could not yet vote. Between advocating and working, Helen finds time to develop a romance that only stabilizes after a life-time of separation.
Reflecting on her youth (including her survival of the Great Chicago Fire), Helen tells the story of how Mary Lincoln’s son, Robert, brings his mother into court and accuses her of insanity. Mrs. Lincoln’s life is described as she endures a rigged trial and subsequent confinement in a sub-standard mental facility. Helen and her legal friends work to uncover injustice and to convince the public that Mrs. Lincoln’s only problems stem from grief and the inability to handle her finances; eventually helping to free the former First Lady.
A Warrant for Mrs. Lincoln, while including some fictional characters and situations, is filled with historical figures (politicians, suffrage advocates, prominent families, etc…) and actual events. The author was careful to include an educational explanation of the story and list of references. Being an attorney, she was able to accurately portray the legal aspects. Professional and well-written, this book presents Mary Lincoln’s later years from both her perspective and the public’s view, while focusing on women’s rights in the late 19th/early 20th century. The added drama of Helen and her life/romance was an excellent touch to keep the reader’s attention. I found A Warrant for Mrs. Lincoln informative, interesting, and a pleasure to read. Five stars.
Charyl Miller Pingleton–April 14, 2009