The Matriarch of Ruins by Edison McDaniels

The Matriarch of Ruins

A Novel of Civilians and the Wounded at Gettysburg
From the "The Gettysburg Trilogy" series, volume 2
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A Civil War novel that follows the struggles of a family as their world crumbles around them.

Purdy Gamble’s husband is a soldier in the Union Army, and she hasn’t heard a word from him in about two years. She discovers that he’s been wounded and sets off to find him in a town named Falmouth. There, she encounters the collateral damage of war: a town besieged by poverty and with a populace hobbled by fear and spiritual dissipation. She finds her husband, Enoch, in a makeshift hospital where the dead and the dying commingle in alarming proximity. He’s badly wounded, with one eye completely maimed. Soon after Purdy transports him to a place where he can get better medical attention, he dies. She returns home to care for her family—a disabled son and two daughters—on her own. Her oldest, a 19-year-old daughter, is still reeling from the loss of her infant son and the absence of her husband, who’s away at war. A Confederate troop commandeers Purdy’s house against her will and transforms it into an improvised hospital; as a result, she has no choice but to bitterly cooperate with the people responsible for her husband’s death. Later, both her daughters must fend for themselves in a land grimly transformed into killing fields. This is the second installment in the Gettysburg Trilogy, and while there is some narrative continuity with the first, it can be read on its own. Author McDaniels (Not One Among Them Whole, 2013) has a remarkable talent for understated depictions of horror, letting the chilling facts speak for themselves: “On the Gamble farm, morning announced itself as the harsh screech of the surgeon’s saw against bone. It was an awful thing to hear, impossible to tune out.” Like its predecessor, the book explores the bottomless acrimony of the two warring sides and also mines rare opportunities for mutual respect and even affection. McDaniels also artfully captures the terrible juxtaposition of the battlefield and the homestead.

A dark, artistically rendered, and historically edifying tale.

Pub Date: June 5th, 2015
Page count: 242pp
Publisher: Northampton House
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2015


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