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The Abolitionist's Daughter

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  426 ratings  ·  127 reviews
In her sweeping debut, Diane C. McPhail offers a powerful, profoundly emotional novel that explores a little-known aspect of Civil War history--Southern Abolitionists--and the timeless struggle to do right even amidst bitter conflict.

On a Mississippi morning in 1859, Emily Matthews begs her father to save a slave, Nathan, about to be auctioned away from his family. Judge
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published April 30th 2019 by John Scognamiglio Book
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3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  426 ratings  ·  127 reviews

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Megan Collins
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was totally engrossing, and I felt completely transported to the story's setting. The writing was very poetic, and there were so many sentences where I found myself pausing to contemplate the wisdom within them. I enjoyed the deep insight into the time period and the culture, and despite it being historical fiction, the book felt very timely, featuring characters and themes that are necessary for readers today. This story was powerful and emotional--both heartwarming and heartbreaking. ...more
Maureen Timerman
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This story begins prior to the beginning of the Civil War, and our locations is deep in Mississippi, and we are living with slave owners, but, and that is a big but, they have drawn up the manumission papers for all, but the government said they weren’t allowed to free these people.
This is a story about family, but it includes those that are not related by blood or marriage, you sure could feel the love here.
I questioned the actions of Emily’s husband, but keep reading, all is not as appears, an
Deanne Patterson
The Abolitionist's Daughter immediately caught my eye when I saw it. It is a bit different than the usual historical book in the sense it's about Southern abolitionist.
The book starts out prior to the Civil War set in Mississippi.
Emily is a young woman living with her brothers and father. Her father believes his slaves should be free but is not allowed to set them free. The Civil War is a topic that has always fascinated me regardless if I'm reading fiction or nonfiction, I'll read it.
Well wri
Alan Hlad
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate to read an advanced copy of this book. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, The Abolitionist’s Daughter is a poignant Civil War tale of love, justice, and redemption. It's a stunning, stellar debut novel by an incredibly gifted author.
I was so excited to have a chance at this book, I do love the Civil War era, but this book was not what I expected it to be based on the blurb. The slave ownership/abolitionist theme was just a minor backdrop to what was an endless melodrama of high emotions and drama (I won't spoil). It didn't help that there wasn't one character in this book I could take a liking to and root for; plus some minor characters came and went and came back again later in the book and I was like: who is this person? ...more
Karen Kay
I received this from for a review.

On a Mississippi morning in 1859, Emily Matthews begs her father to save a slave, Nathan, about to be auctioned away from his family.

Overall an interesting enough story but not real memorable. I had problems with the pacing. People introduced in the beginning of the book would say a sentence or two, vanish and reappear with another sentence at the end of the book. Throughout, I spent too much time refreshing myself on who was who and how they wer
Jean Raffa
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been looking forward to reading this book ever since I first heard of it. I wasn't disappointed. Far from it. I was captivated from beginning to end and devoured it in three days. I highly recommend it for several reasons.

First there was McPhail's careful and thorough research into the details of the everyday lives of the people who lived on a slave-holding farm in pre- through post-Civil War in Greensboro, Mississippi. I craved the early morning biscuits made by Ginny, the housekeeper/slav
Diane Fogel
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: give-a-ways-read
I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this wonderful book.
Very well written and the story pulled me in to the lives of the characters with ease.
I am not the best at writing reviews so bare with me here.
I found the struggles of the women and the slaves pull at my heart, and the lies that destroyed the families and separated them from each other during a very difficult time in American History gripping.
I suspected the real person who killed Emily's father was not her husband, and it was not r
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy from a Giveaway just in time to take with me to Jamaica. Started reading on the airplane and instantly became wrapped up in the well written story. The dark era of slavery continues to be a stain in the history of the US and yet this cast of characters provided the reader with the other side of the moral issue. The depth of relationships and the way they survived is so well written. Personally, I’m looking forward to either a continuation of the familie ...more
The story was ok, (but it was not about abolition) the characters were not well developed and the writing was maddening. For every line of 'story' there were paragraphs/pages of pointless, lengthy descriptions, for instance.....two full pages about someone baiting a fishhook. I lack the tolerance to wade through a book overloaded with drivel.
Moony MeowPoff
Apr 29, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It was just not for me, too many characters and i could'nt get myself to care for any of them. Sometimes i got confused of what happend and where it happend.
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I waivered between four and five stars for this book before ultimately coming down on the higher side.

Emily Matthews is a privileged young white woman in 19th C. Mississippi. Because her father is a well-known abolitionist, she has neither suitors nor prospects, so she is thrilled when Charles Slate, the handsome young doctor, comes calling. He's at the plantation first on business, to treat an injured slave ... but soon he sees Emily as the answer to his prayers and ambitions.

However, things go
Bonnye Reed
The Abolitionist's Daughter is an intricate, involved story of family, of the misunderstandings and divided loyalties that result in unapproachable rifts, and of the cost of freedom. Freedom from doubt, freedom of choice, freedom to love. The backstory of a country at war with itself and the verdant glory that is the lower Mississippi delta make this a book to savor.

An outspoken proponent of manumission, plantation owner Judge Matthews was considered an oddity in Greensboro, Mississippi even af
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Set against the background of the Civil War The Abolitionist’s Daughter tells the story of Emily Matthews a young woman living in rural Greensboro, Mississippi. Her father, Judge Matthews, owns slaves but provides them with an education and has signed certificates of emancipation for each of them, believing strongly in their right to be free. Emily has a close relationship with her father, her brother Will, and many of the Negroes who work on their farm, especially Ginny, in whose care she has b ...more
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Too quickly we forget the Civil War’s shadow in our history. We must own stories such as this one, and remember the tragic time in our history when the lives of so many were turned inside out, families torn apart, and atrocities beyond imagination took place.
With the understanding of a therapist, the heart of a priest, and the keen eye of an artist, all of which she is, Diane McPhail brings back to life in her first novel, The Abolitionist's Daughter, the Civil War story which happened in her o
Jen LaRowe
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The Abolitionist's Daughter is an amazing story that takes place around the Civil War. The Civil War is not a focal point, but it's effects are felt deeply by the main characters. Emily is a young woman living in the south with her father and brothers. Her father believes all people should be free, but he cannot legally free his slaves. As Emily grows and learns, she is faced with tough choices that put her at odds with the world she is loving in.

This book is so many different things, but the b
George Johnson
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I had the privilege of reading an ARC and I don’t know when was the last time I was captured by a book. This is one you just cannot put down. Brilliantly written, it is a series of stories that will put you on the edge of your chair. This writer made me feel that I was there in pre-civil war Mississippi. I was not aware of there being abolitionists in the South and of all places, Mississippi. The Judge, naive enough to believe slavery would soon be abolished, broke the law by having his slaves e ...more
Avary Doubleday
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Diane McPhail has written a beautiful book, telling a complicated story of the lives of two Mississippi families, during the Civil War. Misunderstandings and lies tear these closely tied families apart, leaving women to suffer through war on their own. McPhail describes their suffering, confusion, desperation, and toughness so that the reader feels for characters on both sides of the divide. She describes sounds, smells, and sensations in a way that brings them alive, both physically and emotion ...more
Lucy Meeker
This was an amazing book, and one that I truly enjoyed because of the time in history the book is set in. The Civil War is a topic that really interests me, and I have always loved to read about it, regardless of non-fiction or fiction. This was excellent storytelling and I highly recommend this book to Civil War fanatics and to anyone looking for a good read.

I received an advance reader copy in a Goodreads giveaway.
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is not just another civil war story. This engaging story is told from the point of view of Southern abolistionists. It was meticulously research and I could not put it down. It’s tale of conflict, struggles, love and redemption, sadness and despair. There is so much wisdom and beauty in the telling, I hated finishing it.
Many thanks for the ARC from Net Galley and the author.
Sharon McCann
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED THIS BOOK! Very quick and easy read. You feel like you are right there living the circumstances of the Civil War with the characters in the story.
Would recommend it highly, even if you are not interested in this type of story, I guarantee you will love it too!
Sharyn Davis
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I truly loved this book because it was told the story through a woman's eyes of the courage, love,and how she handles situations before the civil war and during. A wonderful history and insight from a realistic side o what women went through those times.
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Abolitionist’s Daughter immediately caught my eye when I saw the cover as I scrolled through the NetGalley list of books available for request. Its haunting imagery evoked a sense of anguish, and without even knowing what it was about, I knew I had to read it. I wasn’t particularly looking for another historical fiction, but was impressed by the description provided, so I hit “Request”. It took quite awhile for me to get approved so I was pleasantly surprised when the email showed up in my i ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 28, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Jessica by: the cover
Shelves: gave-up-on
The writing was bland, the characters one dimensional and impossible to form any kind of attachment to. The plot was seemingly purposeless and was filled with rape. Most of the characters were either immoral or uncaring, yet their actions were stated in such a detached and description-less manner that I didn't even really find myself disliking them, I just didn't care.
Pat Robertson
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an amazing first novel and has me looking forward to McPhail's next. Her story is well-researched and the characters are authentic to the time. This is good historical fiction shedding light on the too little remembered struggle of abolitionist in the deep south. I for one, knew next to nothing about this. I found this book to be a compelling look at the moral conflict many in the south struggled with as they considered the rub between economic viability and moral integrity. While enjo ...more
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: southern-fiction
An outstanding first novel! Compelling and heartbreaking, the story propels the reader forward into the Civil War and out the other side, not unscathed, but unbowed. Strong women play an important role in this book. I look forward to more from this author!
2.5/5 stars

As much as I wanted to love this book, I didn’t. None of the characters was captivating, which was particularly frustrating since I got the impression that Emily would be the most understandable and the easiest character to root for. I think that a lot of the problem was way too much melodrama. One tragic, overdramatic thing after another kept happening to the point where I stopped caring and just wanted to finish the book. Also, there are a lot of preachy moments that definitely come
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This historical fiction novel shares the transformation of Emily, daughter of a Mississippi judge/slave owner/abolitionist, before during and after the Civil War.

Good pick for a book club, discussions questions included at end. Less historical specifics than I expected with a heavier lean on the fictional plot. This has brief mentions of some battles and the political environment of the time, but mostly this is a fictional tale to describe the pacificist abolitionist, thus it isn't heavy-laden
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Diane C. McPhail is an artist, writer, and minister. In addition to holding an M.F.A., an M.A., and D.Min., she has studied at the University of Iowa distance learning and the Yale Writers’ Workshop, among others. Diane is a member of North Carolina Writers' Network and the Historical Novel Society. She lives in Highlands, North Carolina, with her husband.