THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH by Robert Hicks

THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A thunderous, action-rich first novel of the Civil War, based on historical fact.

Music publisher Hicks treats a long-overlooked episode of the war in this account of the Battle of Franklin, Tenn., which took place in November 1864 near Nashville. As a field hospital is pitched in her field, Carrie McGavock, an iron-spined farm woman and upstanding citizen of the town, takes it upon herself to tend after the Confederate wounded; later, she and her husband will rebury 1,500 of the fallen on their property. Hicks centers much of the story on Carrie, who has seen her own children die of illness and who has endurance in her blood. “I was not a morbid woman,” Carrie allows, “but if death wanted to confront me, well, I would not turn my head. Say what you have to say to me, or leave me alone.” Other figures speak their turn. One is a young Union officer amazed at the brutal and sometimes weird tableaux that unfold before him; as the bullets fly, he pauses before a 12-year-old rebel boy suffocating under the weight of his piled-up dead comrades. “Suffocated. I had never considered the possibility,” young Lt. Stiles sighs. Another is an Arkansas soldier taken prisoner by the Yankees: “I became a prisoner and accepted all the duties of a prisoner just as easily as I’d picked up the damned colors and walked forward to the bulwarks.” Yet another is Nathan Forrest, who would strike fear in many a heart as a Confederate cavalryman, and later as the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. Hicks renders each of these figures with much attention to historical detail and a refreshing lack of genre cliché, closing with a subtle lament for the destruction of history before the bulldozer: “One longs to know that some things don’t change, that some of us will not be forgotten, that our perambulations upon the earth are not without point or destination.”

An impressive addition to the library of historical fiction on the Civil War, worthy of a place alongside The Killer Angels, Rifles for Watie and Shiloh.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-446-50012-7
Page count: 404pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2005




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