One of my best friends, Connie Yen, released her second book, Sinner and Savior. Emma Molloy and the Graham Murder.
Intrigue. Scandal. Strong women. Mudslinging. Bigamy. MURDER!
Sinner and Savior has it all and more! Connie has done an amazing job taking the life of Emma Molloy, the multitude of letters between the parties, court documents, and newspaper articles, and combining them in such a way that makes the reader not want to put this book down.
Emma Molloy was a temperance movement speaker and newspaper writer and editor in the mid-late 1800s. For the time period, she was a well-educated, well-traveled, and outspoken woman. She spent a large part of her life traveling the country to speak on the ills of alcohol use in an attempt to help reform men who over imbibed. Her work also took her into the prisons to help inmates reform their lives. This is where she met George Graham.
Ahhh George Graham. I have very strong and negative feelings about this man. The way he behaves, the things he does, and how he responds to allegations of things he did during his lifetime, make me dislike him a lot. He seems to me, to get away with most things he does wrong in his life. Had he been a woman I do not think this would have happened.
As a woman, Emma’s every move was watched and written about in the newspapers. A great deal of judgment was passed on how she lived her life, which included divorce and re-marriage. Rumors were spread that she was involved in many affairs with men she tried to reform. The way we see the papparazzi today is similar to how people functioned then as far as mudslinging. Their medium for rumors and judgment was the newspaper. Not social media. The way women were treated and dragged through the mud then, while men who may have done something similar to which the woman was being crucified were more or less ignored, is similar to how it still is today. You would think after 100+ years we would have made more progress into men and women being equal.
Emma became friends with George Graham and felt he could be reformed. She invited him, his wife and children to live with her in various locations in the Midwest. Emma even employed George in her newspaper businesses. After George divorced his wife Sarah, and had moved again with Emma into her farm in Missouri, she felt George and her foster daughter Cora would make a good match. Little did Emma and Cora know that George had remarried Sarah, which made him a bigamist when he married Cora. With her family life more settled, Emma was able to continue traveling around the country while George and Cora tended the farm.
As the book progresses, we learn about the relationship between Emma, George, and Cora, which leads a reader to believe it was more than what was portrayed in public. It could be considered scandalous based on the time period. Today, most people would barely bat an eye. Sarah, George’s first wife chose not to step aside after George married Cora, and this is where the story becomes more interesting as Sarah disappears and later is found murdered.
This book is about so much more than murder, possible love affairs, or temperance. Connie uses court documents, letters, and newspaper articles in such a way that we can clearly see the true character of each person. The good and bad. As I read the book I commented to Connie that I could see this playing out on social media today. In the late 1800s, it was played out through the newspapers. Letters were written by George or Emma to each other or directly to the public and published in the newspapers. It was amazing to see how mean George could be and how much he could lie about things he had actually done and plead guilty to at various times.
Connie’s use of the materials and characters creates a compelling narrative that I couldn’t put down, though I did have to when mom duties called. Had mom duties not called, I could have read this book in one sitting. It drew me in and invoked emotions I was not expecting, particularly about George.
When you read this book, consider the following:
- How are strong women portrayed in the media today? How are strong men portrayed? Where do the two meet and where do we still see a gap as far as what men are allowed to get away with that women are not?
- If social media was alive and well in the 1800s – how do you see the correspondence and newspaper articles playing out online rather than in print medium?
- What did you think of each character – particularly the witnesses who were “supposed” to be professionals? How much of that lack of professionalism do we see playing out today in various arenas?
- Do you think Emma and Cora were part of the murder? Why or why not?
- What do you think of George? Intelligent psychopath or a man who could never learn a lesson and change?
Have you read Sinner and Savior. Emma Molloy and the Graham Murder? I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Would you pose other questions than the ones I did for readers to consider?
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