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The historical curiosa that Beatty has unearthed this time--the removal of Georgia mill-hands to the North during the Civil War--does provide an alternative to the Gone with the Wind image of the Confederacy, as she remarks in her concluding Author's Note. The book, however, is more instructive than involving. Hannalee Reed, twelve, is enjoined to ""turn homeward"" by her mother (and presented, for remembrance, with one of Mama's persimmon-seed buttons) when the hated ""bluebellies"" take away Hannalee, her ten-year-old brother Jem, and soldier-brother Davey's beloved, Rosellen Sanders: ""traitors"" for weaving Confederate cloth, and potential labor for the North. (Jem was a ""lap boy,"" Hannalee was a ""bobbin girl""; Rosellen, at the top of the mill hierarchy, was a ""drawing girl."") The major plot wrinkle: Davey and Rosellen quarreled because he refused for a second time to marry her there-and-then: he didn't want to leave her a widow; she, proud and beautiful, vows to have no more of him. In the course of the exile, resourceful Hannalee intermittently passes herself off as a boy; she escapes from a harsh, hostile employer to join Rosellen at a Northern mill, where Rosellen has taken the fancy of the owner's gentlemanly son and also has a ""good Yankee"" landlady; and, when Rosellen seems inclined to stay permanently, Hannalee takes off, fetches Jem, and guides the two of them homeward. The contra-formula ending has Davey, returned from the presumed-dead, observe philosophically that the war has changed everyone, not only Rosellen. The characters aren't stereotypes, they just lack substance, while the incidents are more illustrative than motivated. There's a good bit of theme-sounding too--about how all Southerners didn't own slaves (Hannalee's father, killed in action, opposed slave-holding), about the ill-effects of Confederate guerrilla Quantrill and his raiders (whose path crosses Hannalee's). A youngster may be better for reading this, but fictionally it's pretty forgettable.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1984
ISBN: 0688166768
Publisher: Morrow