The stories of three teens intersect in the later years of the Civil War in this debut novel.
Fifteen-year-old Leander Jordan runs off to war from Ohio to prove he’s a man. “Working in the foundry wasn’t something to admire, not like being a soldier in uniform, a soldier who’d risk his life facing enemy guns. Pa had to see he was doing a manly thing.” But he lands in a Southern hospital, where he befriends Paul Settles, another young Union soldier, who tends to his wounds. When they’re separated, Paul ends up in hellish Andersonville Prison, where smallpox, scurvy and hunger plague the prisoners. There, Paul’s friendship with Given McGlade, a fellow prisoner and Leander’s neighbor from back home, helps keep them both alive. Though the prose is a bit florid early on, the stories are effectively related in twinned third-person narrative, and Wiechman’s abundant research is unobtrusively folded into the tale. An excellent author’s note provides further information about the times. Though the horrors of Andersonville and various Civil War–era events such as the Battle of Atlanta, Lincoln’s assassination and the explosion of the steamboat Sultana provide wartime context, it’s the secrets woven into the well-paced tale that will pull readers eagerly to the tearful conclusion.
A superb Civil War tale of friendship, loyalty and what it means to be a man. (bibliography) (Historical fiction. 9-14)