Publisher: SourceBooks Landmark.
Date of Publication: 1 January 2018
ISBN 13: 9781492646617
With captivating insight and great sensitivity of heart, Marie Benedict tells the mesmerizing tale of an unknown woman who might have inspired an American dynasty, transforming Andrew Carnegie from wealthy industrialist into the world’s first philanthropist.
In the 1860s, Irish immigrant Clara Kelley, seeks employment as a lady’s maid in the home of Andrew Carnegie, head of the Carnegie Empire. Unfortunately, Clara Kelley is not who she appears to be. Posing as a knowledgeable, well-experienced Irish maid, she is actually a poor farmer’s daughter with nothing to her name. Another woman named Clara has gone missing, and Clara pretends to be her, in order to earn some precious income to send back to keep her family alive. Clara tries her level best keep up the ruse though it requires special talents and skills that she does not possess. But she does have a stern resolve as strong as steel, along with an uncanny, unique gift of business skills, that makes Andrew rely upon her. But Clara cannot afford to let her guard down even for a single moment. It was too dangerous. Revealing the true state of her past might only serve to ruin her own future and that of her family’s, who depended solely on her for sustenance. Soon, Clara and Andrew care for each other deeply. When Clara suddenly goes missing, Carnegie’s fruitlessly persistent search for her eventually lay the foundation for his lasting legacy.
Clara tries her level best keep up the ruse. Posing as a lady’s maid in the household of Andrew Carnegie requires special talents and skills that she doesn’t possess. But she does have a stern resolve as strong as steel, coupled with an uncanny gift of unique business skills, that makes Andrew start to rely on her. But Clara cannot afford to let her guard down even for a single moment. It was too dangerous. Revealing the true state of her past might only serve to ruin her own future and that of her family’s, who depended solely on her for sustenance. Soon, Clara and Andrew care for each other deeply. When Clara suddenly goes missing, Carnegie’s fruitlessly persistent search for her eventually lay the foundation for his lasting legacy.
In this well chronicled and impeccably researched novel, that highlights the hitherto unsung role of all unknown women like the mysterious Clara, who with extreme courage and selfless determination, made their silently, unannounced mark upon the renowned pages of history, we witness with breathless awe the stunning stamp of the relevance of history in the early immigrant experience. In a deeply human narrative of incredibly complex, extremely vulnerable, sensitive characters and peculiar twists and turns of fate, this book reveals the arresting power of ambition to realize the American Dream. With captivating insight, Marie Benedict’s clever intellect is dramatically displayed in her well-drawn characters and well-crafted plot, utterly well-suited to historical fiction, in an engaging read, with excellent description and perfectly good balance of emotional tones.
Extremely realistic to accept and confront the vicissitudes of life head-on, the clear-headed, pragmatic Clara Kelley is firm in her convictions and careful to protect herself from impropriety. She struggles to understand Carnegie’s inconsistent behavior and stubborn refusal to confront his flaws. Despite the shared chemistry between them, Carnegie’s mercurial behavior is revealed in his double personality – the ruthless businessman and the egalitarian, erudite young man. Clara’s musings and revelations are interestingly portrayed. Equality with passion is stressed, as the epilogue rushes the story to its logical conclusion. It is sad that in this heart-moving story, Clara and Andrew could never develop their relationship due to the sharp differences in their own particular positions in the echelons of society, forcing Clara to leave the Carnegie home for a life of total oblivion. In this fictional book, although readers are deprived of the ‘happily-ever-after,” that magical moment when true satisfaction comes to the reader, we derive a small measure of comfort from the fact that Clara’s loss becomes Andrew’s gain, when he pledges to pursue her lofty ideals for the ultimate good of mankind.
The climax of the story takes place on December 23, 1868 in the luxurious interior of the study of a hotel suite in New York, where ensconced behind his desk, Andrew Carnegie wielded his fountain pen with a fury, in dire contrast to the gentle melody of a Christmas song wafting through the air. Haunted by memories of Clara, Andrew had spent most of his time searching for her, without success. There was not even the slightest hint of her trail. Clara had covered her tracks so well that it was as if she had never existed except in a dream. Andrew was alone with his thoughts of Clara. In the seclusion and privacy of the study, intimate memories of Clara washed over him. Andrew was filled with a longing so intense as to give him physical pain. He remembered her demure manner and averted gaze, and the few times when she met his gaze unflinchingly, revealing fleeting glimpses of the sharp intelligence that lay concealed beneath her placid demeanor. Andrew had vowed to Clara that he would carve out a different path for himself, choosing a life that would be the most elevating in character and principles. He would honor his vow even though she had disappeared. Through his inexorable pain and agonizing despair at losing Clara, Andrew found healing grace. He might not have Clara, but he would wield her beliefs like a sword. The twin idols of status and money would be worshipped no longer. Instead, he would utilize them for the benefit and betterment of others, in creating ladders for immigrants to climb to success. The document Andrew so painstakingly drafted would have pleased his Clara. And this thought gave him a small measure of happiness. It was the tiniest of appeasements that was to set Andrew on the path to glory. Clara had won the battle at last.