The Third Mrs. Galway

Written by Deirdre Sinnott
Review by Susan McDuffie

1835: Nineteen-year-old Helen, the new wife of Augustin Galway, has not thought much about slavery until she discovers two escaped slaves hiding in the shed on her husband’s property in Utica, New York. Her discovery thrusts her into a dilemma; should she report the pregnant mother and her young son to the authorities, or help them? Helen, reluctant at first, aids Imari and Joe. Maggie, Mr. Galway’s emancipated cook and longtime servant, eventually learns of the desperate runaways and assists as well. Imari, who is determined to reunite with her recaptured husband, has her own reasons for seeking out this specific refuge, and these reasons profoundly affect Maggie.

Meanwhile Mr. Galway nurses a compound fracture under the drunken supervision of a quack doctor who doses his patient with opium while lasciviously eyeing Helen. Utica braces for the initial gathering of the New York State Anti-slavery Society as town-folk and others opposed to the abolitionists prepare to attack the meeting. Two Virginian slave-catchers armed with bullwhips roam the town, searching for the escapees, while a brash young man from Little Falls, somewhat at loose ends, becomes smitten with the young Mrs. Galway.

This suspenseful novel vividly breathes life into the early years of the United States, and the burden of slavery the young Republic carries with it. The struggle of the runaway family and Helen’s quandary illuminate the era and the tense choices people faced. To flee bondage or remain enslaved? To protest the status quo or acquiesce? This book engrosses the reader and does what historical fiction does best. In bringing the past into sharp focus, it shines a light on our present day. Highly recommended.