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BookBrowse Reviews The Widow of The South by Robert Hicks

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The Widow of The South

by Robert Hicks

The Widow of The South by Robert Hicks X
The Widow of The South by Robert Hicks
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2005, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2006, 448 pages

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A memorable, many-faceted account of one of the definitive events in USA history. Historical Fiction/1st Novel

From the book jacket: In 1894 Carrie McGavock is an old woman who has only her former slave to keep her company…and the almost 1,500 soldiers buried in her backyard. Years before, rather than let someone plow over the field where these young men had been buried, Carrie dug them up and reburied them in her own personal cemetery. Now, as she walks the rows of the dead, an old soldier appears. It is the man she met on the day of the battle that changed everything. The man who came to her house as a wounded soldier and left with her heart. He asks if the cemetery has room for one more.

Comment: Hicks' first novel blends historical fact with fiction.  The story centers on Carrie McGavock, known as 'the widow of the south' - a Confederate woman whose house was commandeered as a field hospital following the Battle of Franklin (fought in November 1864 close to Nashville, Tennessee) - one of the bloodiest battles of the war with 9,200 casualties, mostly Confederate soldiers.  The novel opens 30 years after the battle and then flashes back to the day of the battle - a day when four generals lay dead on Carrie's back porch, the pile of amputated limbs rose as tall as the smoke house, and a wounded soldier named Zachariah Cashwell arrived who would shake Carrie out of her stupor allowing her to find new purpose in her life. 

The story is told from alternating points of view, including Mariah, Carrie's slave-turned friend; Carrie's husband, who returns to his plantation after the war; various soldiers from both sides; Carrie's neighbors; and Confederate general, Nathan Forrest.  This allows Hicks to write about the small human stories from various points of view, as well as the epic catastrophe of the Civil War itself.  In the words of Kirkus Reviews, this first novel is "worthy of a place alongside The Killer Angels (Michael Shaara), Rifles for Watie (Harold Keith) and Shiloh (James Reasoner)."

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in November 2005, and has been updated for the September 2006 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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