A sharply crafted, post-bellum epic of love, fidelity and gender switching, from playwright Hamilton.
During the Civil War, five brothers lose their lives at the battle of Bull Run. Hamilton draws the grindingly horrific few days with the detailed clarity of an American Heritage map: crisp, transporting and smart with color—“The smoke from gunfire formed a sulfuric miasma about the men—a kind of death shroud that protects as well as prepares.” After the news gets back to the affluent family in Charleston, Hamilton elegantly shifts the family’s life course. Perhaps accustomed to having their way, the two sisters who remain at home will each assume the identity of one of their brothers: Grace becomes Henry, and Louise becomes Will. Another devastated family enters the picture, led by a woman named Virginia, who was blinded by warfare. Duped into an extraordinary dance of affection, she falls in love with “Henry” and “he” with her. Hamilton sure-handedly conveys the blindness of love as well as the war-related atrocities visited upon the South, while interweaving an array of threads: death letters, outlaws, piano playing, how to make soil work, how the blind may hear the soul, honeysuckle and wild crocus during wartime. Amid the “ripened corn stained with fresh blood,” children are born and children die, as in a scene readers may have seen elsewhere that features the suffocation of child who might give away a hiding place. Hamilton’s writing has a way with grief, and what better subjects than war and its debris to reveal it?
A heart-wrenching, moving tale that’s achingly believable.