To better understand her father and great-great-grandfather, a daughter unravels their lives as soldiers.
â€œAcoustic shadows” refers to a phenomenon in which, due to geographic anomalies, an observer cannot hear sounds, such as those of battle, even though they are taking place a short distance away. Similarly, Howell spent her entire childhood living under the same roof as her father but felt she hardly knew him. To the world, her father was a handsome, good-natured veteran, but to his family, he was a hopeless alcoholic, often withdrawn and extremely reticent about his experiences during World War II and the Korean War. To understand and eventually accept her father and his weaknesses, the author set out to learn everything she could about his life during war. Howell contacted surviving members of his unit and pieced together a chronology of his experiences through the memories of others. Simultaneously, through her great-great-grandfather’s Civil War journals, she gained insight into his soldiering experiences. She even donned facial hair and engaged in Civil War re-enactments, retracing her ancestor’s route with the 72nd Illinois, a unit that took part in the Battle of Franklin and the Siege of Vicksburg. During these sections, Howell’s writing is at its most expressive. She has an eye and ear for nature, readily conjuring the wildlife surrounding her as she travels down the Mississippi River and through the South. She writes beautifully about the Civil War as well, using her ancestor’s eyewitness accounts to frame vivid evocations of a Civil War campaign. However, readers may lose interest during the more introspective sections of her personal journey.
Graceful and memorable.