cover image The Third Mrs. Galway

The Third Mrs. Galway

Deirdre Sinnott. Jones, $17.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-61775-842-3

Historian Sinnott’s ambitious if uneven debut grapples with the world of abolitionism in Upstate New York during the 1830s. The story unfolds in Utica in 1835 when two freedom seekers, Imari, an escaped enslaved pregnant woman, and her son, Joe, wander onto property belonging to entrepreneur Augustin Galway. Utica is the site of raging debate between colonizationists (conservative abolitionists like Galway advocating for removal of enslaved persons to Liberia), and radical abolitionists, who want the emancipation of enslaved persons. Helen O’Connell Galway, Augustin’s wife, decides to shelter the two fugitives from the watchful eye of her husband, but struggles with her decision. Utilizing a network of Quakers, local abolitionists, and free blacks including the Galways’ domestic servant and a fishmonger , Helen succeeds in keeping Joe and Imari sheltered—until an unscrupulous doctor hired by Augustin leads slave patrollers to the secreted runaways. In the end, Galway family secrets prove pivotal to the freedom seekers’ plight. While Sinnott offers a rich history of the burgeoning abolitionist movement, exhaustive details of events such as the New York Anti-Slavery Convention don’t always feel integrated into the story, and the primary characters are underdeveloped. In a crowded field, this doesn’t quite hold its own. (July)