BookBrowse Reviews The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

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The Second Mrs. Hockaday

by Susan Rivers

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers X
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2017, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2017, 288 pages

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A love story, a story of racial divide, and a story of the South as it fell in the war, The Second Mrs. Hockaday reveals how that generation - and the next - began to see their world anew.

Susan Rivers brings a mystery and love story to life in this epistolary novel set in the Civil War. 17 BookBrowse readers reviewed The Second Mrs Hockaday with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.

Told in haunting and moving prose through journal entries and correspondence, this story, based on actual events, tells of a newly married young woman left home alone with just the servants and her husband's infant son after her officer husband is called back to fight for the Confederacy. Returning home years later, he finds his wife has been accused of a horrible crime of which she will not speak. It's at once a love story, a history lesson and a beautifully written tale of forgiveness (Diana C). This book captured my interest from the first page. I was not very far into it when I misplaced it during holiday preparations. It festered in my imagination the whole time it was lost (Gwen C). I found myself unable to put this book down – I was caught up in the mystery of Placidia Hockaday. Something happens while her new husband goes off to fight in the Civil War that greatly affects her life and I wanted to know what happened (Barbara P). I loved the strength of Placidia who was a teenager swept up in a marriage to an officer whom she comes to love and for whom she makes an enormous sacrifice that costs her reputation and family (Gretchen M).

Readers were intrigued by the format of The Second Mrs. Hockaday:

The use of written correspondence and diary entries to tell the story gave the reader an intimate view of the characters' lives as they struggled through such a terrible time. There was as much pain and suffering back home as on the battlefield. A fast read for me (Louise J). The format of this novel, which consists entirely of letters, journal entries and legal documents, immerses the reader in a mystery involving three generations of a South Carolina family, before, during and after the Civil War. The story – which unfolds slowly (building suspense) and not always in chronological order – is told from the perspective of the protagonist, Placidia Hockaday, and various members of her family. I found this a captivating book, one that I could not put down until I finished it (Kathryn S). The writing is so colorful and exquisite. I truly felt I was right there with the characters. I enjoy epistolary narratives, so this was another aspect of the book I loved. Things were revealed slowly...but it didn't drag and I never figured out the truth until it was revealed (Pamela F). The diary entries and letters are heart-wrenching and provide an unexpectedly intimate look at this period of American history (Linda L).

And while the novel falls into the historical fiction category, some of our readers felt that it is still deeply resonant today:

Once I picked this book up, I could not put it down until the last haunting sentence rang in my mind like a bell…It brings home the sheer cruelty of slavery, and white people's casual acceptance of that cruelty, in a way few books have managed to do without preaching. The horrors of the Civil War are also made immediately felt through the characters' lives in quiet but such graphic prose that it made me feel I was understanding it for the first time as a fellow human being rather than a student of history…One beautiful passage at the end of the book stays with me and seems particularly relevant, perhaps, to our current political moment: "So much blood has been spilled that redemption may be out of reach in the end. Maybe all we can hope for is to be so exhausted by hate that we settle for the ceremonies of reconciliation." I can hardly wait for Susan Rivers' next book! (Jeanne B) There were messages within the novel that were apropos to that time period but they are just as relevant today and resonated loudly. Even through bad times, the human spirit wants to survive and love (Rebecca L).

Finally, readers recommend The Second Mrs. Hockaday to many kinds of people:

I will recommend this book to my book club and also to family members and friends who have a particular interest in the Civil War era (Kathryn S). I highly recommend this debut novel for any readers interested in historical fiction. Book clubs could have lively discussions about the resourcefulness and resilience of Placidia, a teenage bride who was left on her own to raise her young stepson Charles, manage the farm and the slaves, and cope with the raiders while her husband was away in the war (Helen S). I would recommend the book to those interested in history and mysteries and like a good story based on true incidents (Mary Jane D).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in February 2017, and has been updated for the November 2017 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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