Linda Lipko's Reviews > An Acquaintance with Darkness

An Acquaintance with Darkness by Ann Rinaldi
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May 19, 11

bookshelves: american-history, young-adult
Read in May, 2011

Many thanks to countrylife for recently recommending this very interesting book.

I've read a number of Ann Rinaldi's books, some are good, others fall flat. This one is worth the time and effort spent reading.

Using the backdrop of Washington, DC at the turbulent time of the end of the Civil war, Rinaldi takes us through the streets of a city in turmoil as the country is reeling with the aftermath of a nation torn apart.

Slaves who were freed now have no where to go. Expecting President "Linkum" to find homes for them, they sadly seek shelter and food to no avail.

Widows with no source of income are pressed to take in boarders. Soldiers returning home to the North after the war suffer from disease, loss of limbs and the stress of combat fatigue.

We learn of life in Washington, DC 1865 from the point of view of fourteen year old Emily Pigbush who lost her father in the war and her mother to "the wasting disease".

Upon her death bed her mother forbid Emily to live with her Uncle Valentine, a prominent physician and teacher. Instead, Emily was slated to live at the home of her friend Annie Surrat, daughter of Mary Surrat.

Weaving a cast of characters including John Wilkes Booth, Dr. Mudd, General Custer and the Surrats, Rinaldi provides accurate historical detail regarding the assignation of President Lincoln and the effects of a city and nation in tremendous grief.

John Wilkes Booth was known to visit the home of Mary Surrat and thus she was implicated with seven others.

History shows that on the afternoon of Lincoln's assignation, Booth went to Mary Surratt's boarding house in Washington, D.C. It was discovered that guns and ammunition were stored there.

Of the eight alleged conspirators, she was the only woman. She was found guilty and hanged. She has the historial notoriety of being the first woman executed by the United States government.

Mary Surrat's boarding house:

Mary Surrat:


While the title and cover of the book leads the reader to believe this is a ghost story, in fact, the sub plot of the book is an excellent depiction of Ann's Uncle, who for the sake of learning new medical techniques in order to help wounded and those afflicted with disease, works with a few others to rob graves or attain bodies. These are the times before legal autopsies and the moral/ethical procurement of bodies is balanced by the need for knowledge.

Recommended.
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