The Prodigal Daughter
A Biography of Sherwood Bonner
- Author(s): McAlexander, Hubert Horton
- Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
- Publication Date: 1999-08-11
- Status: Active
- Available in Paper: Price $20.00 | Buy Now
“McAlexander’s biography, by far the best book on Bonner, is a story about many things—‘a budding realist of the local color school’ (as he assesses Bonner), a woman’s struggle for identity, life in both Mississippi and Brahmin Boston in the mid-nineteenth century. It is, in the finest sense, biography as social history.”—Fred Hobson, Georgia Historical Quarterly
Sometimes enigmatic and often shocking, Sherwood Bonner (Katharine Bonner McDowell, 1849–1883) defied accepted notions of what she ought or ought not to be. Born into the Mississippi planter aristocracy, she married at age twenty-two and bore a child. Less than two years later, however, she left her husband, daughter, and native state to pursue education in Boston and fulfill her ambition of becoming a writer.
Described by one Boston gossip as “a statuesque blond with cataracts of yellow hair,” Bonner was befriended by Henry Wadsworth Longellow, who became her mentor and patron, and by James Redpath, a fellow conspirator of John Brown and one of the era’s leading radicals. During her short life, Bonner produced short stories, the novel Like Unto Like (1878), and the novella The Valours (1881). She faded into obscurity after her death, but in recent years her work has been rediscovered—thanks in large part to this scrupulously researched biography, which was first published in 1981.
Hubert McAlexander reveals Bonner as a southerner, as a woman, and as a strong individual in a time of great social change. In describing a life filled with glamor, romance, challenge, and success, Prodigal Daughter acquaints us with one of the most enchanting women of American letters.
The Author: Hubert H. McAlexander is professor of English at the University of Georgia. He is the editor of Conversations with Peter Taylor and Critical Essays on Peter Taylor.