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John and Abigail Adams: An American Love Story Review by Wayne S. Walker

By Judith St. George
Scholastic Inc.
557 Broadway
New York City, NY 10017

Appropriate fiction can be good. For educational purposes, good historical fiction is even better. However, actual history is the best. One of the most interesting ways to learn history is through reading biographies. This book is not a biography, per se, but a look at the lives of John and Abigail Adams based upon the letters that they wrote to each other.

The author says in her introduction:
In the past, whenever I thought about John Adams, if I thought about him at all, I pictured a short, stout, prickly, one-term president sandwiched between two giants, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In thinking about Abigail Adams, I pictured a strong-willed, opinionated First Lady known to some as Mrs. President. And then I bought a secondhand book of selected letters that John and Abigail had written to each other. What an eye-opener! John and Abigail Adams were remarkable people in a remarkable marriage, who lived through America's most remarkable time...In reading their letters, I also discovered that my opinions about John and Abigail were both right and wrong. Yes, John Adams was short, stout and prickly. He was also vain, moody, ambitious and a hypochondriac. On the other hand, he was Mr. Integrity, a brilliant intellectual, a first-rate orator and a born leader, who dedicated his life to his country. As for Abigail, she was certainly opinionated and strong willed, but she, too, left behind a lasting legacy. One of the nation's best-informed women on public affairs, she helped to shape the political views of her husband and her son John Quincy, our sixth president. Outspoken, spirited and well read, she championed education for women and advocated that wives have the same legal rights as their husbands. But as an eighteenth-century woman, she believed that a wife's first priority was her home and family.

The book does not gloss over the faults and weaknesses of these two people, nor does it magnify them, but simply presents John and Abigail as human beings that we can identify with rather than romanticize. Some people might see a little bit of feminism in the book. Abigail was certainly not a feminist in the commonly accepted modern usage of that term, although she was certainly a strong woman. She is not presented as such in the book, but a few of the descriptions of her views seem as if they are colored throughmodern feminist glasses. I do like the emphasis give to the Adams' religious beliefs. They were members of the Unitarian Church, but while Unitarianism was considered "liberal" even in the eighteenth century, Unitarians of former years were much more conservative and Bible-oriented than the majority of them today.

The author notes, "During their marriage Abigail and John had lived through great triumphs and painful defeats. But nothing had touched their hearts as did the loss of their Nabby. Only their religion and lifelong faith in God sustained them...that and the comfort and solace each was able to give theother." And after Abigail's death, John wrote, "We shall meet again and know each other in a future State." This is a very sympathetic account that is well worth reading.

Language level: nothing objectionable.
Ages: suitable for anyone; independent reading level 10-15.
Recommendation: excellent.

-- Product Review by: Wayne S. Walker, Missouri State Coordinator, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine