During the Civil War, a man and woman from Maine, seeking to avenge a murder, try to track down a Union soldier in this novel.
Zachary Webster is a sharpshooter in the Civil War and has seen plenty of combat. Back home in Maine for a winter furlough, Webster reconnects with his girlfriend, Catherine Brandford, and his younger brother, Elijah, whom he tries to dissuade from volunteering for the war effort. As it happens, Catherine has been spending time with another man, and the jealous Zachary kills him. The victim’s brother, Jedediah Stiller, is an imposing ex-whaler who is “a giant with exotic black-blue tattoos on his cheeks and chin, his long hair tied back with a strip of leather, and both ears pierced with golden earrings.” Jedediah wants revenge and plans to somehow find Webster, who has quickly returned to the front lines. For her part, Catherine desires retribution, too, and decides to become a war nurse in hopes of locating Webster. The two avengers’ separate plans get sidetracked along the way, as Catherine is taken in by a kindly couple whose promises of safety may not be quite what they deliver. Jedediah returns to sea, involuntarily, after being shanghaied and forced into bare-knuckle matches, with the sketchy promises of freedom looking unlikely. Bridgford’s (Hauling Through, 2016) novel begins with some haunting imagery that places readers squarely in the center of its Maine setting: a starving moose pursued by a hungry Webster; a recently deceased patriarch whose body rests “in its coffin in the family barn waiting for the ground to thaw enough to dig his grave.” The conflict’s effect on a small Maine community is an intriguing angle for a Civil War story, and the plot is intensified by the distance the characters have to travel (with many perils along the way) to reach Virginia. Though the war is central to everything in the book, this is mostly a revenge tale that takes a while to get going and can be somewhat long-winded. But as the plot gains speed, Catherine’s and Jedediah’s stories turn into compelling tales full of deception, wickedness, and earthy 19th-century details.
A remarkable Civil War tale about Northern characters fighting for their own freedom as they seek revenge.