Harriet and Isabella (Paperback)

By Patricia O'Brien

Touchstone Books, 9780743277778, 304pp.

Publication Date: January 13, 2009



It is 1887, and Henry Ward Beecher lies dying. Reporters from around the world, eager for one last story about the most lurid scandal of their time, descend on Brooklyn Heights, their presence signaling the beginning of the voracious appetite for fallen celebrities we know so well today.

When Henry Ward Beecher was put on trial for adultery in 1875, the question of his guilt or innocence was ferociously debated. His trial not only split the country, it split apart his family, causing a particularly bitter rift between his sisters, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Isabella Beecher Hooker, an ardent suffragist. Harriet remained loyal to Henry, while Isabella called publicly for him to admit his guilt. What had been a loving, close relationship between two sisters plummeted into bitter blame and hurt.

Harriet and Isabella each had a major role in the social revolutions unfolding around them, but what happened in their hearts when they were forced to face a question of justice much closer to home? Now they struggle: who best served Henry -- the one who was steadfast or the one who demanded honesty?

Praise For Harriet and Isabella

"Harriet and Isabella takes us right into that fascinating place where power, morality, and human desire meet. In the skilled hands of Ms. O'Brien, the tragic story of the Beecher family becomes a compelling page-turner with unmistakable echoes in our own times." -- Thomas Dyja, author of Play for a Kingdom

"While everyone has heard of Uncle Tom's Cabin and can name its famous author, few know the story of the distinguished family from which she came, the remarkable Beecher clan. In Harriet and Isabella, Patricia O'Brien has brought the Beecher family back to life. These passionate abolitionists, ardent preachers, and reformers are also touchingly fallible human beings, whose loves, feuds, and scandals provide O'Brien with more than a family drama, but rather the drama of an American era." -- Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March

"Patricia O'Brien has taken a familiar tale of scandal and self-destruction -- the trial of Henry Ward Beecher, with all its ramifications for post-Civil War America -- and has brought it back to life for us in Harriet and Isabella. Beautifully told, in it we see afresh how a family, caught up in their times and celebrated as an example to the nation, began to unravel as the result of Beecher's transgressions and his family's own conflicting loyalties. I found myself caught up in their times and their world through Ms. O'Brien's masterful storytelling." -- Robert Hicks, author of Widow of the South

"The trial of Henry Ward Beecher and its impact provoked an earthquake in the political life of the United States. Now, Patricia O'Brien has given the Beecher family its due long after the original scandal has faded away." -- Gore Vidal, author of Lincoln

"As compelling as it is lovely. The imagined world of perhaps the most influential woman in history, Harriet Beecher Stowe, is moving, vibrant, extraordinarily well informed, and unforgettable. Read and be haunted." -- Patricia Cornwell, bestselling author and descendant of Harriet Beecher Stowe

"Harriet and Isabella is a taut, tension-filled novel about a close-knit family torn apart by accusations of adultery -- and because the family is among the most prominent in American history, the story unfolds against a panorama of abolitionism, politics, and suffrage, while remaining suffused with the small details of daily life which make historical fiction illuminating." -- Lauren Belfer, author of City of Light

"A vivid and expert narrative of deep and complex relationships...." -- Barbara Goldsmith, author of Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull

"Riveting...a penetrating tale of sex and temptation and politics and family ties. It turns you into a front-row witness at one of the most sensational scandals of America's past. I couldn't put it down." -- Lynn Sherr, author of Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words

"[O'Brien] smartly blends history about this fascinating family...a winning piece of historical fiction." -- Kirkus Reviews

"This intriguing novel illuminates the era's political and social struggles as well as the stresses within a celebrity family." -- Library Journal