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by Randy O'Brien

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-59211-101-5
Publisher: Addison & Highsmith

In this novel, a young woman intent on fighting for the Union cause during the Civil War disguises herself as a man.

In 1861, the nation hangs on the precipice of war, and Massachusetts teenager Eloise Jacobson, an outspoken critic of slavery, prepares to do her part. She’s armed with a remarkable education, and since her family operates a telegraph office, she is skilled at Morse code. But her desire to contribute to the war effort is rebuffed because she is a woman, a rejection delivered by no less than Oliver Wendell Holmes. Her brother, Edward, enlists in the Army but, following their father’s death, loses his nerve, a gutless decision that threatens to ruin the family’s reputation. When Edward abandons his commitment and runs south, Eloise is struck by an ingenious, if radical, idea—she will assume the appearance of a man and take her brother’s place, both saving the family name and providing her with an opportunity to fight. Her transformation is remarkable—she even takes up smoking a pipe in order to give her voice a more masculine timbre. With great intelligence and subtlety, O’Brien chronicles the fortunes of Eloise and Edward—the latter eventually overcomes his cowardice but only to fight for the Confederate side, making the siblings war enemies. Eloise is a remarkable and memorable hero—deeply intelligent and equally decent, she is profoundly changed by her experiences of battle and death and fully realizes the societal limitations placed on her gender: “I was surprised by how much my deception allowed me more freedom and responsibility than my real identity. I never realized just how merely being a woman could hamper my freedom of movement and my entrance into establishments.” This is a historically astute story that deftly highlights an element of the war largely neglected.

A thrilling war tale, dramatically engrossing and historically authentic.