An old foe kidnaps a Georgia preacher’s long-lost son in this historical fiction sequel.
Harry Richardson and his wife, Sarah, are expecting a baby in their small community in northern Georgia. Though now a Baptist preacher, Harry is a former Confederate soldier and cavalry officer. The opening sequence of the novel relates his recurring nightmare from “the battle of Missionary Ridge, when the Confederate forces were defeated and Harry was captured.” He also has a son, Harrison, by way of an affair with Molly Baldwin, the daughter of a family friend from Harry’s adolescence. After their brief affair, Harry departed to serve in the Confederate Army, not knowing he had left her with a son. Now age 13, Harrison has come to live with Harry and Sarah, as Molly is presumed dead. Past secrets and old rivals threaten Harry’s newfound domestic happiness when Charlie—an old foe who married Molly and is Harrison’s stepdad—abducts the boy. Harry then goes in search of Harrison and Charlie in this quickly plotted tale. What ensues is a novel about pursuit and survival, as Harry’s past reveals further secrets and mysteries. Charlie—a man for whom “even the most innocent remark could send him into a rage”—is motivated by a long-held contempt for Harry. At various points, the vindictive Charlie questions Harrison about whom he believes his real father to be and tells him, “I’m going to take everything away from him, just like he took everything away from me.” Throughout, the tale touches on a number of historical tropes, including moonshiners (there is the friendly Michael Gibson) and gold prospectors (Charlie has dreams of going to California). Durbin (The Captain Takes a Wife, 2015) also offers studious descriptions of the Georgia landscape—including the animals that populate it—and of Harry’s day-to-day life “preparing sermons, tilling the land with a borrowed mule to make a garden, cutting stacks of firewood to be ready for next winter, caring for the horses.” Though some backstory may be lost on readers unfamiliar with the first installment, the author relates her tale swiftly and compellingly.
A readable and well-told Southern story.