Some books grip you from the first sentence, and some take hold of your interest slowly but steadily. In an odd way, this book does both.

The foreword by Joseph J. Ellis takes you into John and Abigail’s world. He is a fabulous writer of books such as Founding Brothers and American Sphinx. But the question isn’t whether he is a good writer, we already know that. The question is whether Ellis can persuade the reader, with just a foreword, to look past the slightly archaic writing and fall into the story of their lives. It is much easier to read the foreword and tell people that you love the life of Abigail and John Adams. He starts it off with a story- John, revolutionary in both his beliefs of politics and romance, reads to Abigail from Descartes as she shells peas for dinner. For a man of high political standing (this is after his presidency) to be reading to his wife is amazing. Abigail was very smart, though, and she helped John immensely. I found it interesting that she knew poetry by memory. In McCullough’s biography of John, he says that little mistakes in letters indicate that she knew the verses by heart, and didn’t actually look at the poem. This small story, told in a sentence, is the perfect way to start a book. I am immediately interested in this radical couple; he allowed her a way of life longed for by many.

The letters are an extension of the foreword, which is a like a pixel compared to the “photo” of their letters. I can’t explain how much I like this book. I just bought it today, though I spent my entire hour at the Mount Vernon gift store (that we were supposed to have for eating lunch and browsing) reading it. The letters are a little hard to read. They don’t use apostrophes. Don’t is dont, which is a bit diverting. The book also does not correct any spelling mistakes, or tries to infer words from illegibility.

I have read two books of letter before, both wonderful, but not as good as this. They are Beyond Innocence; The Later Years and Africa in My Blood; The Early Years. They are Jane Goodall’s correspondence with her mother Vanne, her son Grub, her husband Derek (I’m surprised that I remember all this…) and other important people. A few parts brought me to tears in these two books. In My Dearest Friend, I am on page thirty one, and I have not cried, but something more powerful has happened. I stop with the book open in my hands, and just think. There’s no way to describe. Certain lines make my entire body have goose bumps in awe of the beauty, the awareness of Abigail and John. I just sit on the couch, for maybe ten, twenty minutes, thinking. The world is somewhere else, far away, when I read this. I am transported to a land over two centuries old, but these humans, these revolutionaries, had the ideas that could change the world today. And these ideas were in normal, everyday letters. I’m astounded even now, and I’ve known this for quite some time.

This book makes me want to be a historian. There’s no other way to put it. I want to spend the rest of my life learning about history, writing about history. I want to be able to read the real letters, to see the real documents. Someday…

If you want to know more about Abigail and John Adams, I would like to direct you to a few fabulous sites. First off, the Massachusetts Historical Society has an Adams Family Papers Electronic Archive which has really helped me with school research and my own personal essays. They also have an Adams Family Papers Editorial Project. This is an resource for diaries, letters, and other documents. You can get these volumes at Universities, and a sample online. I haven’t used them yet, but I am checking Volume 1-2 out of a local University. And, if you ever have a chance, please don’t miss the National Adams Historical Park. It’s in Braintree, Massachusetts.

For non-internet sources, I recommend highly John Adams by David McCullough and for kids, Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober.

I would give this book to nearly anyone. It’s a love story, historical fiction, an adventure, almost anything but fantasy. Though their lives were fantastical. Please read this book. It is changing my life. Maybe it will change yours.

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