Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict

Veering closer to fictional than historical, Carnegie’s Maid makes you consider the unsung heroes. Those in time easily looked over, whether that was then, now, or a continued absence in the future, some people are cogs to figure heads. Clara Kelley, for instance, was a cog behind the man that would become Andrew Carnegie.

Metaphorical, of course, Clara Kelley was an Irish immigrant in the Carnegie estate. Working as a maid, Clara strived for the American dream. Taking pointers and intimate advise from Carnegie himself. However, the burden of her financial standing, sex, and everything the least bit prejudicial was against her. She could not rise through the ranks of society, build a business while supporting her family back home, and have a family. Through no fault of her own, nothing more than a victim to her circumstances, Clara finds herself indebted into Carnegie’s future.

Her personality, her ideas, her person shaped Carnegie. His business, the industrial tycoon he became, the philanthropic leader he was, was shaped by some one. More likely by many someones, since no one becomes themselves without the influence of many others. Let alone someone as powerful or influential in history as Carnegie.

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Of course his family and his background shaped him heavily, but what about his friends? His staff? Those that fleet through others lives and those that stay, those missed moments and those regrets. Not only was Carnegie incredibly successful in bringing a new era into America, industrially and politically, Carnegie also built the societal stairs necessary for anyone to succeed in whatever field they wished to do so. From Carnegie Hall to public libraries, train tracks and telephone poles, aren’t all of Carnegie’s achievements reflective of those behind him?

But who were those people, who does Clara Kelly represent, then and now? She is a symbol of hard work, of over-coming the odds, of taking advantage of what opportunities are made available. Her fictional being does not negate her ability to be a role model for women of any age, which is what made this story so interesting to read.

There was a strong focus in time, a question to consider, rather than skimming the top off history, as commonly happens in Benedict novels, this book is in-depth, emotional, and realistic. Reading some scenes are like being transported into rooms of finer furnishings, feeling the heat of anger rise in one’s throat, the beginning of yourself and the end of Clara is nearly unidentifiable. So why not read your own story?

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