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“Modern Americans, bombarded with stories of celebrity divorces, probably assume that the tabloid breakup is a recent phenomenon. This lively, well-written and engrossing tale proves them wrong.” The New York Times Book Review

“Ilyon Woo’s The Great Divorce is much more than a fascinating account of a woman’s trailblazing battle for her children.  By delving so deeply into the sources, Woo brings the past to life in all its wonderful strangeness, complexity, and verve.  This is what history is all about.”

Nathaniel Philbrick, winner of the National Book Award, author of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex and The Mayflower

From The Washington Post: “Woo vividly tells the story of the Chapman’s broken family, beginning with a dramatic sentence worthy of Stephen King….”

Eunice makes her debut in a raunchy Wall Street Journal essay (Editor’s Pick)

Interview with NPR’s “All Things Considered”

Interview with The Diane Rehm Show, NPR

See my essay in the Wall Street Journal online: “An Asian Father’s Gift: Permission to Fail.”

See the BOOK TRAILER for The Great Divorce

“Neglected history comes alive in this meticulously researched and compelling story of one tenacious woman. Strongly recommended to all interested readers.”  Starred review in the Library Journal.

“The Great Divorce is a superb book – masterfully written, deeply suspenseful, and filled with fascinating facts and insights.  American history would be everyone’s favorite subject if more historians wrote like this.  Woo is a writer to watch.”

Debby Applegate, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher


“A writer of extraordinary empathy and great resourcefulness, Ilyon Woo has transformed a neglected historical record into a vivid evocation of an era and an amazing tribute to a remarkably tenacious woman, Eunice Chapman. Meticulously researched and compellingly narrated, The Great Divorce will stand beside the work of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in the pantheon of American women’s history writing.”

John Matteson, winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father


“Ilyon Woo has taken the stuff of obscure history and transformed it into a gripping drama that resonates with our own world. Though she lived in the 19th century, Eunice Chapman reminded me of Erin Brockovich-a woman on a mission who fights like a tigress for what she believes in. Woo has an eye for the telling detail, and a prose style as elegantly spare as a Shaker chair.  The result is a heart-warming, finely written story of one woman’s battle against fanaticism, a story that has particular resonance today.”

Simon Worrall, author of The Poet and the Murderer


“American history, law, religion and politics all come alive in this poignant account of an abandoned woman’s rescue of her children in the first decades of the nineteenth century. Ilyon Woo gives us the unfolding drama of the first and only legislative divorce in the history of New York as part of a larger struggle for civil identity and women’s rights. It is not enough to say that this story of Eunice Chapman’s fight against injustice is well told. Ilyon Woo tells a story that every American should want to read.”

Robert A. Ferguson, George Edward Woodberry Professor of Law, Literature, and Criticism, Columbia University, author of The Trial in American Life


“The Great Divorce is a riveting tale of betrayal and redemption.  Ilyon Woo’s story of Eunice Chapman’s desperate legal struggle to retrieve her children from the Shakers brings early nineteenth-century America alive.  Woo blends a thorough knowledge of the era with a novelist’s eye for character and place to make us understand how one woman could wage such an epic battle and why we should know about her crusade.”

Michael Grossberg, Sally M. Reahard Professor of History & Professor of Law, Indiana University, author of Governing the Hearth: Law and the Family in Nineteenth-Century America


“A gripping read.  Ilyon Woo is a scholar who draws on an impressive array of primary sources, but her lively prose is anything but scholarly. She maintains the suspense of her story from the opening scene of a torchlit mob circling a Shaker village to the Chapmans’ final confrontation in New Hampshire. That Woo succeeds in making the reader sympathize with Eunice Chapman is not surprising; that she also makes the reader feel empathy for the Shakers and the troubled James Chapman is a measure of her masterful and sensitive storytelling.”

Glendyne Wergland, author of One Shaker Life: Isaac Newton Youngs, 1793-1865


 
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