"A fine wartime novel that avoids the common landmines of its genre."– Kirkus Reviews
In this debut novel, a young man from North Carolina enlists in the Confederate Army and finds himself fighting in critical battles of the Civil War.
Civil War novels often end up making the battles the main characters, as many of them were so horrific that they can’t help but dominate a story. Ross-Edison’s novel,however, avoids that pitfall by focusing on diverse personalities, giving the war a fascinating human element. Pinckney C. Johnson enlists in Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in August 1862, just in time to participate in the war’s single bloodiest day—the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, which had more than 22,000 casualties. The author depicts the battle with a historian’s eye for detail, highlighting Union Gen. George McClellan’s caution, Lee’s gambling spirit and Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s cantankerousness. She doesn’t neglect the smaller personalities, however, such as the obstinate Union Gen. Edwin “Bull” Sumner and the pious Confederate Jubal Early. Although by necessity the book includes lots of regiment numbers, battle positions and other military details, Ross-Edison keeps the writing crisp and clear, never letting the minutiae interfere with the main narrative of Pinckney’s war experiences, from collecting bodies to becoming a sharpshooter. He remains with Lee’s army from Antietam through the final days in 1865 of trying to break the Union stranglehold on Petersburg. Pinckney’s story, with an unexpected twist, also focuses on how he meets and interacts with so many of the war’s major figures along the way. It’s refreshing to see President Abraham Lincoln, often treated in literature as insufferably wise and patient, being accused of “micro-managing” events and being a pain in the neck. There are also numerous subplots about ordinary people, such as slave boys Issac and Zeke, who are planning an escape from bondage. The book contains some other intriguing twists and surprises, as in a scene in which Pinckney meets with McClellan. Overall, this book successfully joins the ranks of good Civil War literature.
A fine wartime novel that avoids the common landmines of its genre.