Woo tells the story... with a cinematic eye. She excels at setting scenes, conjuring the sensations experienced by the Crafts at each harrowing point ... Master Slave Husband Wife argues convincingly that the Crafts’ escape exposed and subverted the rickety foundations of the gendered and racialized categories of master and slave ... One great achievement of Woo’s book is its careful attention to the moments when Ellen Craft’s perspective does flash through the archive ... the part of her story Woo chooses to tell richly deserves this book-length treatment.
A narrative of such courage and resourcefulness it seems too dashing to be true. But it is ... The story is so richly dramatic, and Ms. Woo so skilled at spinning it out, that at times it’s a genuine nail-biter ... Admirably resists oversimplifying the motives and characters of its antagonists as well as its heroes.
In this superbly researched and masterfully written book, Woo gives William and Ellen Craft’s story the detailed attention it so richly deserves. She expertly places their tale, especially their experiences as abolitionist speakers facing hostile and sometimes violent crowds, in the social conditions of antebellum America.
The real strength of Master Slave Husband Wife comes from Woo’s exploration of how Ellen was perceived and treated after her spectacular escape catapulted her into celebrity ... With empathy and admiration, Woo details Ellen’s quiet refusal to conform to the racist, classist and sexist expectations of her enemies, benefactors, supporters and even her husband. Thanks to Woo, Ellen is finally at the center of her own story as someone who heroically challenged America’s myths of equality and freedom.