A finalist for the Lincoln Prize, The Sea Captain's Wife "comes surprisingly, and movingly, alive" (Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly).
Hodes reconstructs the intriguing and unusual life of Eunice Richardson Stone Connolly. a mill laborer in mid-19th-century New England who went South with her husband to seek their fortune; homesick, even as her husband fought for the Confederacy, she returned to New Hampshire, where she was reduced to working as a washerwoman. The only thing that brought an impoverished Eunice respectability was her white skin. But then she heard of her husband's death, and in 1869, mystifying some of her relatives, Connolly put that respectability at risk, too, marrying a well-to-do black sea captain from Grand Cayman Island and moving there with him. Hodes, a historian at NYU (White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South), relies on a rich cache of Connolly's letters, which are housed at Duke University. Unfortunately, the letters don't reveal how Connolly met her second husband or explain in depth why she decided to marry him. Hodes's prose, though sometimes a bit affected ("In place of fiction, I offer the craft of history, assisted by the art of speculation"), is lucid and her account is engaging, though for readers steeped in the subject not pathbreaking; what Hodes has to tell us about the 19th century-that race was socially constructed and complicated, for example-is nothing new. 47 b&w illus., 2 maps. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.