Sankovitch highlights the significant impact of Braintree daughters and wives Abigail Smith Adams and Dorothy (Quincy) Hancock, among others, who shared their husbands’ beliefs, influenced their work, and endured their trials; she includes the challenges of loyalists Samuel Quincy and Jonathan Sewell (husband of Esther Quincy and close friend to John Adams) ... Sankovitch has woven a compelling, potent chronicle of members of three principal American families that will be valued by readers of American history at all levels.
... hugely enjoyable ... Sankovitch here does a skillful job of capturing the sometimes halting and contradictory progress of that transformation ... Some of the book’s portraits are more effective than others. For such vibrant individuals, John and Abigail Adams come off strangely muted in these pages, whereas Josiah Quincy, far less known to the general American reader of 2020, is drawn with knowing affection for his bookish ways ... It’s an appealing core cast of characters, although Revolution buffs might pine for the addition of one more name. Sankovitch mentions Samuel Adams often in the course of the book, but the centrality of his role in bringing things to a boil sometimes feels slighted in favor of the exploits of his more famous cousin...Even so, American Rebels succeeds marvelously in putting human faces on the American Revolution and showing readers how seismic events rippled outward from door-to-door intimacy.
... reminds us that as momentous events unfolded, the stuff of daily life carried on—courtships, marriages, family gatherings; houses were constructed, careers furthered, gout and consumption endured by some ... For all it has to offer, American Rebels also has its shortcomings. Despite its focus on family life and personal correspondence, some of its central figures—Adams, for instance—come across as flat. Descriptions are sometimes overdone or unconvincing, or both ... The book’s tone can be curtly homiletic, while its argument is unduly vague. Far too little is said about the history of ideas, especially political ones, while what is said is occasionally inconsistent or askew ... The bibliography upon which American Rebels draws is patchy and dated, reflecting a text that scavenges past historical works but tends not to engage with them. General readers may be better served by competing popular histories ... Many of these books, and others that go unnoticed by Ms. Sankovitch, convey a deeper sense of Boston’s rebels and the revolution they wrought.