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Nightingale: A Memoir of Murder, Madness, and the Messenger of Spring

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“Nightingale” is an eloquent and inspiring tribute to the life and legacy of Elisabeth Mannering Congdon, the extraordinary woman who was so much more than the last day of her life. Entrusted with the burdens and joys of memory, Elisabeth’s eldest granddaughter, Suzanne Congdon LeRoy, combines lived experience with meticulous historical research as she details a family leg “Nightingale” is an eloquent and inspiring tribute to the life and legacy of Elisabeth Mannering Congdon, the extraordinary woman who was so much more than the last day of her life. Entrusted with the burdens and joys of memory, Elisabeth’s eldest granddaughter, Suzanne Congdon LeRoy, combines lived experience with meticulous historical research as she details a family legacy filled with inconceivable loss, love, and perseverance. Elisabeth Congdon emerges as the messenger of spring and the key to her granddaughter’s survival. Her early efforts to nurture a foundation of hope, optimism, and the power of possibility lead Suzanne to advanced education, a remarkable nursing career and the discovery of the ineffable relationship between healing oneself, service to others, and the connection to the spirit and beauty of the earth that makes her whole again. “Nightingale” is a book of rare power, beauty, and hope. All proceeds, after taxes, are used to support health and human rights initiatives that benefit women and girls with an emphasis on education, reproductive health, and violence prevention.


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“Nightingale” is an eloquent and inspiring tribute to the life and legacy of Elisabeth Mannering Congdon, the extraordinary woman who was so much more than the last day of her life. Entrusted with the burdens and joys of memory, Elisabeth’s eldest granddaughter, Suzanne Congdon LeRoy, combines lived experience with meticulous historical research as she details a family leg “Nightingale” is an eloquent and inspiring tribute to the life and legacy of Elisabeth Mannering Congdon, the extraordinary woman who was so much more than the last day of her life. Entrusted with the burdens and joys of memory, Elisabeth’s eldest granddaughter, Suzanne Congdon LeRoy, combines lived experience with meticulous historical research as she details a family legacy filled with inconceivable loss, love, and perseverance. Elisabeth Congdon emerges as the messenger of spring and the key to her granddaughter’s survival. Her early efforts to nurture a foundation of hope, optimism, and the power of possibility lead Suzanne to advanced education, a remarkable nursing career and the discovery of the ineffable relationship between healing oneself, service to others, and the connection to the spirit and beauty of the earth that makes her whole again. “Nightingale” is a book of rare power, beauty, and hope. All proceeds, after taxes, are used to support health and human rights initiatives that benefit women and girls with an emphasis on education, reproductive health, and violence prevention.

30 review for Nightingale: A Memoir of Murder, Madness, and the Messenger of Spring

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    The fascinating topics of madness and murder are woven into this genuine coming-of-age memoir: "Nightingale" authored by Suzanne Congdon LeRoy. During childhood/young adulthood, LeRoy had a very close loving relationship with her maternal grandmother Elizabeth Mannering Congdon (1894-1977), heiress to the Congdon estate/mining fortune. In childhood, LeRoy's relationship with her grandmother served as a buffer from the irrational/abusive behavior from her mother Marjorie, who had once been diagnos The fascinating topics of madness and murder are woven into this genuine coming-of-age memoir: "Nightingale" authored by Suzanne Congdon LeRoy. During childhood/young adulthood, LeRoy had a very close loving relationship with her maternal grandmother Elizabeth Mannering Congdon (1894-1977), heiress to the Congdon estate/mining fortune. In childhood, LeRoy's relationship with her grandmother served as a buffer from the irrational/abusive behavior from her mother Marjorie, who had once been diagnosed with a serious mental illness. The extra funds provided by the estate for the care of Leroy and her brothers/sisters were squandered by her parents, who later divorced. Although LeRoy was the oldest and helped care for her younger siblings, (her mother was unable to do so) the siblings did not seem close. In 1977, LeRoy's beloved grandmother and her nurse were murdered at the family mansion known as "Glensheen" that was located near the shoreline of Lake Superior, (Saint Paul, MN), This horrific crime was covered extensively by the news media, people were in shock at those responsible, causing an unmeasurable amount of grief and heartache for these families, friends, and others in the area/community. To further summarize: I liked this memoir, though the first part of the story was harder to follow, told in a child's narrative. The family background and ancestry information would have been more helpful in the beginning to give a point of reference. The majority of the story focus was about Leroy's grandmother, her mother seemed like the elephant in the room this family couldn't acknowledge. It's unclear if there was any seriously needed psychiatric care provided for Marjorie, her mental health seemed to worsen as she aged, bringing many of her criminal actions to the attention of the authorities. It was inspiring that LeRoy followed her grandmother's example by service to others, earning a PhD in nursing, and working in healthcare involving women and children. The Glensheen Mansion is owned by the state of Minnesota and opened for guided public tours. Many thanks to the author for sponsoring the Goodreads Giveaway where I won this book. Be blessed.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lola

    Have you heard of or read about the murder of Elisabeth Congdon & her night nurse, Velma Pietala? Congdon was a wealthy heiress to a mining fortune in Duluth, Minnesota. There have been books written about the murders but this book is written by Congdon's oldest grandcbild, Suzanne Congdon Leroy. Congdon never married but she did adopt two daughters. The one, Marjorie, is Suzanne's mother. Marjorie's husband was behind bars for the murders but it appeared that Marjorie was guilty as well but she w Have you heard of or read about the murder of Elisabeth Congdon & her night nurse, Velma Pietala? Congdon was a wealthy heiress to a mining fortune in Duluth, Minnesota. There have been books written about the murders but this book is written by Congdon's oldest grandcbild, Suzanne Congdon Leroy. Congdon never married but she did adopt two daughters. The one, Marjorie, is Suzanne's mother. Marjorie's husband was behind bars for the murders but it appeared that Marjorie was guilty as well but she wasn't found guilty. Marjorie had a lot of crazy behaviors including starting her houses on fire & marrying a man while she was still married to another husband. She was charged with bigamy. Elizabeth Congdon was the positive force behind her granddaughter, Suzanne, throughout her life. This story is of special interest to me because I remember when the murders took place. Also I visited the Congdon mansion with my mother when I was young because my mother knew a woman who was employed there.

  3. 5 out of 5

    JoyAnna

    True story of an heiress to a mining fortune and the victim of a homicide written thru the eyes of her granddaughter. Fascinating family study of the granddaughter along with her siblings being raised by an unstable Mother who by the end of the book is suspected of having participated in 4 murders and numerous arsons. The heiress Elisabeth Mannering Congdon is the only love and stability in her granddaughters life. Through the years and eyes of the child we progress to the point of her beloved g True story of an heiress to a mining fortune and the victim of a homicide written thru the eyes of her granddaughter. Fascinating family study of the granddaughter along with her siblings being raised by an unstable Mother who by the end of the book is suspected of having participated in 4 murders and numerous arsons. The heiress Elisabeth Mannering Congdon is the only love and stability in her granddaughters life. Through the years and eyes of the child we progress to the point of her beloved grandmothers murder of which her own Mother (who was adopted) was involved. With this tragedy the granddaughter finds meaning and courage to overcome what has happened in her life to be a nurse and help others. Inspiring and an excellent read of a life's journey and how one person so influenced a child to be courageous and believe in herself.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    On the day Elisabeth Congdon was murdered, my family was beginning our move Duluth. I remember waking up to the news of her murder and following the trial of her killer. In Nightingale, Ms. LeRoy shares a story of love and admiration between a granddaughter and her beloved grandmother, as well and the story of the sinister psychopath; Marjorie Congdon Caldwell Hagen. I worked as a volunteer docent at Glensheen, but I never knew the whole story. Ms. LeRoy tells it with compassion and frankness an On the day Elisabeth Congdon was murdered, my family was beginning our move Duluth. I remember waking up to the news of her murder and following the trial of her killer. In Nightingale, Ms. LeRoy shares a story of love and admiration between a granddaughter and her beloved grandmother, as well and the story of the sinister psychopath; Marjorie Congdon Caldwell Hagen. I worked as a volunteer docent at Glensheen, but I never knew the whole story. Ms. LeRoy tells it with compassion and frankness and one shutters to think of what her childhood with selfish, unloving parents would have been like without her beloved grandmother. The fact that she survived it and thrived is a huge testament to her relationship with her grandmother. It is, without a doubt, a travesty of justice that Caldwell Hagen has never been found guilty of her astounding list of crimes.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Holly Ristau

    After seeing the play, "Glensheen" at the Minnesota History Theater, I wanted to know more about the Congdon murders. I remember the newspapers at the time it happened, but the details were still foggy, so I wanted to delve a little deeper. I'm so glad I chose this book instead of many others on the case! Elisabeth Congdon becomes a real three-dimensional person here, instead of the woman who was murdered. And the author, Elisabeth's granddaughter, grows and learns This was the "Eat. Pray, Love" After seeing the play, "Glensheen" at the Minnesota History Theater, I wanted to know more about the Congdon murders. I remember the newspapers at the time it happened, but the details were still foggy, so I wanted to delve a little deeper. I'm so glad I chose this book instead of many others on the case! Elisabeth Congdon becomes a real three-dimensional person here, instead of the woman who was murdered. And the author, Elisabeth's granddaughter, grows and learns This was the "Eat. Pray, Love" version of the Congdon case! I am left with even more questions and sadness at the failure of the "justice" system in our country as exhibited in this case. But I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Connie White

    An interesting read from Elizabeth Congdon's Granddaughter. We learn more from a family member of the impact of growing up with the famous family and having to be a witness in the murder trial . I was always curious as to how in that time a single woman was able to adopt children so the book gives us information about Elizabeth Congdon's life and work and interests. Suzanne is a real survivor , and learned from her Grandmother how to make a difference in this world. She says she will not make her An interesting read from Elizabeth Congdon's Granddaughter. We learn more from a family member of the impact of growing up with the famous family and having to be a witness in the murder trial . I was always curious as to how in that time a single woman was able to adopt children so the book gives us information about Elizabeth Congdon's life and work and interests. Suzanne is a real survivor , and learned from her Grandmother how to make a difference in this world. She says she will not make her book available at Glensheen because they are too focused on the murders rather than the history of the family and their contributions to Minnesota.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Linda Spyhalski

    This is a very difficult book to find but I got it for Christmas from my son! A great read and I am so glad he found it. It is not just the story of the murder committed at Congdon Mansion in Duluth but a detailed history of the family members that was so interesting. It is rather amazing all this family did for the people, charities, and community of Duluth. Kudos to the author Suzanne Congdon Leroy for writing this book, it must have been very difficult!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    Gives you a different perspective on the family their stories. I enjoyed the shared memories of better times . Well worth the read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary Norell Hedenstrom

    This book is a love song to a grandmother and a sad story of murder and madness.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Erika

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Story of glenshine mansion murder. Crazy how nuts the mom was

  11. 5 out of 5

    Annice

    Nightingale: A Memoir of Murder, Madness, and the Messenger of Spring tells a tale of how one woman leaned on her frail and soon deceased grandmother's lessons of love and safety to overcome obstacles in life. The book focuses on Elisabeth Manning Congdon, heiress to a mining fortune and victim of a notorious homicide, and the relationship she had with her granddaughter, Suzanne Congdon LeRoy. LeRoy's mother, now known as a serial criminal, made family life for Suzanne hectic and above all uns Nightingale: A Memoir of Murder, Madness, and the Messenger of Spring tells a tale of how one woman leaned on her frail and soon deceased grandmother's lessons of love and safety to overcome obstacles in life. The book focuses on Elisabeth Manning Congdon, heiress to a mining fortune and victim of a notorious homicide, and the relationship she had with her granddaughter, Suzanne Congdon LeRoy. LeRoy's mother, now known as a serial criminal, made family life for Suzanne hectic and above all unsafe. Using memories from her childhood, LeRoy brings to life this tumultuous upbringing. Her one stable relationship in her family was with her grandmother, who she saw multiple times a year. Suzanne knew that with Elisabeth, she was safe. Even after Elisabeth's stroke, Suzanne found a way to nurture and grow the relationship she saw as so very important in her life. Arguably one of the worst days of her life was when she found out her grandmother was brutally murdered. At the time Suzanne was beginning nursing school, taking after her grandmother's love of health and helping people. She had to suddenly deal with the reality that her mother was involved in this horrific crime, despite being found not guilty. Through it all, she learned to lean on her grandmother's influence, whether it be stories, memories or life lessons Elisabeth taught her, to overcome her upbringing and truly succeed in her given field, one that her grandmother would be very proud of. Few individuals living outside of Minnesota and the surrounding area have probably heard of the horrific murder of Elisabeth Manning Congdon and her nurse. Despite that, this book beautifully demonstrates that Elisabeth was so much more than what many people know her for. Suzanne set out to write about her amazing grandmother who provided her safety and security as well as guidance in life, even after her death, who she clearly believes helped her achieve what she has accomplished in her life. This memoir is wonderfully written and is well worth a read. Whether familiar or not with the murder before the book, as a reader you will come to see Elisabeth for what she truly should be remembered for - the wonderful, kindhearted woman that she was.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    Nightingale by Suzanne Congdon LeRoy is a free Goodreads FirstReads advance reader copy of a paperback book that I began reading in early/mid-October. I had chosen this book because I was familiar with the importance of this family in Minnesota state history, but had no idea that this tragedy had occurred. The initial dreamlike, idyllic narration of the author as a child was very off-putting, almost like a children's book that a teacher might use to expand vocabulary about interior design, but th Nightingale by Suzanne Congdon LeRoy is a free Goodreads FirstReads advance reader copy of a paperback book that I began reading in early/mid-October. I had chosen this book because I was familiar with the importance of this family in Minnesota state history, but had no idea that this tragedy had occurred. The initial dreamlike, idyllic narration of the author as a child was very off-putting, almost like a children's book that a teacher might use to expand vocabulary about interior design, but then it soon took on the image of being like an automatic self-playing piano. It's as though you're listening to a song, quite contentedly, with a few juttering blips interrupting the sequence and then, suddenly, the song sheet flaps free with the title character's homicide, and you're reaching toward the piano, avoiding the spinning, flinging and snapping trajectory of the paper, almost to assist Suzanne to continue what was once so serene and soothing in her otherwise chaotic family life. The ending, however, is very scattered and doesn't quite bring together the loose ends of the tragedy and/or its aftermath. We're left to celebrate the author's worldwide travel and graduation from the U of M, instead.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Ann

    My original review: I got this book yesterday and finished it. Not because it's an easy read..it's a difficult read for me. Being abused does not mean that you will become an abuser. For many being abused results in becoming Protectors. They just are not the ones you read about in the news or in prison stats. Much resonated with me as it will with others who were victims, became survivors, then thrivers and protectors. It also affirms the value of having one person in childhood who cherishes, li My original review: I got this book yesterday and finished it. Not because it's an easy read..it's a difficult read for me. Being abused does not mean that you will become an abuser. For many being abused results in becoming Protectors. They just are not the ones you read about in the news or in prison stats. Much resonated with me as it will with others who were victims, became survivors, then thrivers and protectors. It also affirms the value of having one person in childhood who cherishes, listens, and loves you. Suzanne Leroy paints so well with her words; we can see and feel the love and calmness of her grandmother. We can see and feel the fear that her mother's emotional and physical abuse engenders. We can see and feel the detachment of her father...both very narcissistic and sociopathic creatures. AND we can see and feel the strength from her grandmother that allows her to be strong and survive and thrive. Thank you Suzanne Congdon Leroy for sharing your story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    I received this book for free through the Goodreads Giveaway program. I enjoyed this book. It's told from the point of view of a granddaughter who grows up under the care of a crazy, criminal mother. The grandmother is a shining light in the granddaughter's life and the love that existed between them is completely obvious. This book is a fascinating look into what can inspire a child who's life is filled with tragedy, and encourage them to give meaning to their own existence. The fact that this b I received this book for free through the Goodreads Giveaway program. I enjoyed this book. It's told from the point of view of a granddaughter who grows up under the care of a crazy, criminal mother. The grandmother is a shining light in the granddaughter's life and the love that existed between them is completely obvious. This book is a fascinating look into what can inspire a child who's life is filled with tragedy, and encourage them to give meaning to their own existence. The fact that this book is based on a true story is icing on the cake, and makes this story all the more relatable.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Aimee

    A wonderful Memoir and tribute to an extraordinary grandmother. I could not put this book down. I could feel the emotions of the author while reading this book. You can tell how much she did/does love her grandmother. I truly loved that a bit of family history was included. As soon as I started reading about Glensheen I wanted to learn more about the house, and I looked it up on the internet, and wow what a truly stunning house. I would recommend this memoir, it's truly amazing to learn what one A wonderful Memoir and tribute to an extraordinary grandmother. I could not put this book down. I could feel the emotions of the author while reading this book. You can tell how much she did/does love her grandmother. I truly loved that a bit of family history was included. As soon as I started reading about Glensheen I wanted to learn more about the house, and I looked it up on the internet, and wow what a truly stunning house. I would recommend this memoir, it's truly amazing to learn what one person went through, and that she came out on the other side all right, and never let her past drag her down. Truly inspirational.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Interesting history of the Congdon family in Duluth and the infamous murder at Glensheen. I think the sentiment behind the desire to write the story is wonderful, to ensure that Elizabeth Congdon is remembered for the lovely woman she was, not just the victim of murder. But from there, the story went downhill. The story is of particular interest to me not just because of Duluth, but because my mom's family were neighbors of Marjorie LeRoy. Interesting history of the Congdon family in Duluth and the infamous murder at Glensheen. I think the sentiment behind the desire to write the story is wonderful, to ensure that Elizabeth Congdon is remembered for the lovely woman she was, not just the victim of murder. But from there, the story went downhill. The story is of particular interest to me not just because of Duluth, but because my mom's family were neighbors of Marjorie LeRoy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kayt18

    Wonderfully written and compelling true story. I had never heard about this family or the murder. Ms Congdon LeRoy did amazing research, also using first person accounts from her own memories. Could not put this one down. I won this in a Goodreads contest and have to say I probably would not have read it otherwise. I am very thankful I did win it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from cover to cover. I highly recommend this wonderful true story to anyone and every one.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    This was a free per edition give away from the publisher. The history is very ingesting. The mother seems to be crazy, as she wants everything to go her way, and if it doesn't, the mother makes it happen. She's abusive and the only love the daughter seems to get, is from the grandmother. They share a special bond, that last year's after the grandmother passes. I really liked the history of the family. This was a free per edition give away from the publisher. The history is very ingesting. The mother seems to be crazy, as she wants everything to go her way, and if it doesn't, the mother makes it happen. She's abusive and the only love the daughter seems to get, is from the grandmother. They share a special bond, that last year's after the grandmother passes. I really liked the history of the family.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    My rating 4.5 stars This book was fascinating for me. I've always been interested in the Congdon family. I've toured the house a few times and read a few books about the family. Poor Suzanne lived a pretty sad life growing up with mean parents. Luckily Elizabeth Congdon was a guiding light for her. The only criticism I can think of was the author would talk in an active voice, even if she was telling a story that she remembered when she was younger. My rating 4.5 stars This book was fascinating for me. I've always been interested in the Congdon family. I've toured the house a few times and read a few books about the family. Poor Suzanne lived a pretty sad life growing up with mean parents. Luckily Elizabeth Congdon was a guiding light for her. The only criticism I can think of was the author would talk in an active voice, even if she was telling a story that she remembered when she was younger.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ericka

    This book was disappointing. It promised the story and life of Elisabeth Congdon, but the most I learned of her was in the epilogue. This was another book in the line of Eat, Pray, Love where an upper-middle class person "somehow" overcomes adversity. It could have been a great book had the author intertwined her Grandmother's life with hers throughout the book instead of summing up Ms. Congdon's life in 5 pages at the end of the book. This book was disappointing. It promised the story and life of Elisabeth Congdon, but the most I learned of her was in the epilogue. This was another book in the line of Eat, Pray, Love where an upper-middle class person "somehow" overcomes adversity. It could have been a great book had the author intertwined her Grandmother's life with hers throughout the book instead of summing up Ms. Congdon's life in 5 pages at the end of the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sue Eklund

    Suzanne gave me this book after I introduced her to my friend Kim who is beginning her own journey of writing a memoir. Suzanne and I have talked about the emotions that went into this story about her grandmother and family members. And so I may be biased in my rating but still, it's an authentic historical perspective on Suzanne's childhood, the murder of her grandmother, the years of speculation, trial, and how Suzanne endured it all to become the professional, caring woman she is today. Suzanne gave me this book after I introduced her to my friend Kim who is beginning her own journey of writing a memoir. Suzanne and I have talked about the emotions that went into this story about her grandmother and family members. And so I may be biased in my rating but still, it's an authentic historical perspective on Suzanne's childhood, the murder of her grandmother, the years of speculation, trial, and how Suzanne endured it all to become the professional, caring woman she is today.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Harden

    A wonderful memoir and a tribute to remarkable grandmother. An excellent read, beautifully written and well researched with a bit of family history as well. Unable to put this book down, I read it in one day. I can recommend this highly as a book of great value for fans of memoirs, family history, and the possibilites that spring from hope and optimism.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Katie Robinson

    An Amazing memoir. I read this book in one day, I could not put it down. The author has so many details about her family's history, I felt like I knew them. Elizabeth was such a strong woman. There were times I wanted to cry. At the end of the book I felt inspired. What a lucky woman Suzanne is for have such a wonderful caring grandmother. I absolutely recommend this book. An Amazing memoir. I read this book in one day, I could not put it down. The author has so many details about her family's history, I felt like I knew them. Elizabeth was such a strong woman. There were times I wanted to cry. At the end of the book I felt inspired. What a lucky woman Suzanne is for have such a wonderful caring grandmother. I absolutely recommend this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anne Marie

    Fantastic book!!! I couldn't put it down! Wonderful story of family history, plots, twists and turns. I recommend this book for anyone who like true story mysteries that aren't too graphic. I don't like true stories that are full of graphic murders... This book was a win from the Goodreads First Read Program. Fantastic book!!! I couldn't put it down! Wonderful story of family history, plots, twists and turns. I recommend this book for anyone who like true story mysteries that aren't too graphic. I don't like true stories that are full of graphic murders... This book was a win from the Goodreads First Read Program.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carol Nelson

    I absolutely loved this book. Any girl who's loved their grandma will enjoy this book. Anyone interested in the Glensheen murders will also enjoy this book. It is a really interesting read from the point of someone in the family who truly knew Elisabeth Congdon. Once again, I realize how lucky I am to have a wonderful, loving mother. I absolutely loved this book. Any girl who's loved their grandma will enjoy this book. Anyone interested in the Glensheen murders will also enjoy this book. It is a really interesting read from the point of someone in the family who truly knew Elisabeth Congdon. Once again, I realize how lucky I am to have a wonderful, loving mother.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marti

    I liked this fast reading memoir which would interest anyone familiar with Duluth, MN, the Congdon family and their home, Glensheen.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Judy Andringa

    Unbelievable true story! Looking forward to visiting the mansion in Minnesota.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amy 'lillestrand'

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A must read. So catching I couldn't put it down. A must read. So catching I couldn't put it down.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Amazing personal tribute to an extraordinary woman. But reads like a gripping thriller as well as a story of perserverance and resilence.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Berns

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