Washington’s Shadow, which was officially published on October 15, 2019, has been reviewed by BookTrib, an on-line source of book news and book reviews. Here is the review:
“In a cozy Virginian parlor in 1810, a widow, her daughter and two servants stare at a box containing letters from the Revolutionary War written by Col. Leven Powell, who had fought with George Washington at Valley Forge. Now, in the throes of grief after his passing, Powell’s family struggles with how best to capture his legacy, piece together his story from the letters, and in the process define their own futures.
At the forefront of McLennan’s novel is the question of who controls Powell’s story and how it gets told. Should his biography be written by sons Burr and Cuthbert Powell, both politicians? Perhaps, but they hand the project off to their sister, Jane, who enlists the help of the other women.
Sally (Powell’s widow), Jane and the free servants Nancy and Dorothy act as a chorus for the reader. Amid letters about Native American wars, smallpox and slave armies, the women amend Powell’s words to account for the people most overlooked. In this way, McLennan expertly brings alive the Revolution by making the reader feel the immediacy of it.
But amid all the domestic work of mending, cooking and feeding relatives, the women are weighed down by the task. After all, women were not at the front lines but at home keeping businesses running and their families from starving.
McLennan’s novel is uniquely meta-textual; just as we are shown transcripts of letters describing major battles in the war, we see the women’s lives intersect behind the scenes. They know they are in the shadows of their husbands and that Col. Powell was in Washington’s shadow, but that their loyalty and talents are just as crucial to the success of the young country.
And when Jane’s brother Billy is hunted down for debt by one of Thomas Jefferson’s infamous hit men — the same who drove Aaron Burr out of the country — the past gets personal. Jane isn’t just reminiscing about her father anymore, but trying to piece together how her father’s involvement with Washington has made Billy a target.
Sally’s teenage grandkids are sent off to find Billy, following ancient Native American trails on their ponies and fighting back against thugs and thieves. It’s not quite a road trip by today’s criteria but just as riveting and atmospheric as the best of them.
Reading Washington’s Shadow is like being transported back in time and seeing a country where adventure and danger lurked at every turn. Part love story, political intrigue and coming of age novel, McLennan has created vibrant characters that will stay with readers long after the book ends.
As Edward, a house servant, explains the significance of Jane as the primary storyteller, “Make believe she’s Washington on his white horse. Show some respect.”
Washington’s Shadow is available for purchase.”
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