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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
    Nov 2017, 288 pages

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There are currently 25 reader reviews for The Second Mrs. Hockaday
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Rebecca L. (Ocean City, NJ)

Compelling and Engaging ..
This was a novel that has become my favorite in the genre of historical fiction. The setting was during the time of the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era where the plot revolved around romance and marriage, love and loss - with a twist of mystery. Well-researched history was intermingled perfectly with fictional lives. As Placidia Hockaday was left to fend for herself while her husband, Major Gryffth, was fighting in the war, The reader was totally involved in the pace of the novel and the characters. I began to feel like a voyeur in their lives and found it difficult to detach myself from the characters. What happened to Placidia as she struggled to be a resilient woman during a time where only the strong survived during adversity, pathos, tragedy, suffering, and war? What was that tragic secret that she must carry? How did she handle the scandal? How did the Major react? Who was culpable? Choices, motives and outcomes were so cleverly addressed that just when I thought I had the answers, this author kept you reading compulsively forward. Susan Rivers is a master story-teller and a talented writer of prose that is lyrical yet thought-provoking, 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. This novel would be an excellent and unforgettable choice for a Book Club! I read this book in two days and then read it a second time. I will be watching for the next book that Susan Rivers writes!
Mary Jane D. (Arlington Heights, IL)

A Mystery Solved
I very much enjoyed the slow solving of the mystery as to why Placidia Hockaday was accused of a horrendous crime. Little by little details are revealed about the life of the young Southern belle who marries a man she hardly knows and is unprepared for the responsibilities she must assume when he goes off to war. Three generations of her family are included. The characters were well developed through their letters, diaries, and inquest transcripts that slowly unraveled the complicated story. At times I was confused about names and time periods and had to reread some parts but about half way into the book it got easier to keep things straight. I would recommend the book to those interested in history and mysteries and like a good story based on true incidents.
Lucy Jay (Albany, NY)

Historical Mystery
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... needed to know what actually happened that fateful night. Very thoroughly researched. I highly recommend this book for historical fiction lovers.
Gwen C. (Clearfield, PA)

The Second Mrs. Hockaday
In this age of texting and tweeting it is sheer pleasure to read well-crafted (if impossibly long) letters – and inquests and diary entries. 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; when found the plot and time turns went beyond my expected scope. This is an excellent book that gives heart- rendering insight into the Civil War and its aftermath.
Jeanne B. (Albuquerque, NM)

Mesmerizing Story, Brilliant Author
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's that good! Other reviewers have summarized the plot so I won't dwell on it here. I would point out, though, that 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. Best of all was the powerful depiction of the love between Placidia and Major Gryffth, in language so moving you understand at once this is one of THE great love stories and that whatever happens in the end will be shaped by this unyielding love. The author's brilliance shines in the taut plotting and pacing of the story but also in her development of every single minor character. They are all fully alive; it is a whole complete world. You will want to dive in and not come up for air until the very end! 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." p. 236 (advance copy) I can hardly wait for Susan Rivers' next book!
Helen S. (Sun City, AZ)

Growing Up Quickly
This book captured and kept my interest from the very beginning. I liked Susan Rivers' method of writing the story of Placidia, the second Mrs. Hockaday, from multiple points of view by using letters and diary entries written by the different characters. Although it was revealed almost in the beginning that Placidia had been imprisoned while her husband was away fighting in the Civil War, you didn't know what crime she had committed. The author dropped just enough hints to keep you reading, but not so many to give away Placidia's secret until it was revealed at the end of the novel.

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.
Power Reviewer
Lani Strom

Another goodie that readers will have to devour in the New Year; a nice way to start off 2017. At first I wasn't sure if I would like the structure of this novel. Set up as letters and diary entries, I actually thought it might be stultifying. Rather, it was engrossing with an exquisite level of tension that kept escalating. Based on a true incident, this fascinating story surrounds a young woman from the South who precipitously marries a Major employed in the Civil War's southern regiment. Almost immediately after, he is summoned back to the front lines, leaving this poorly equipped young woman to lead a 300 acre farm and its slaves in addition to an infant from his previous deceased wife.When the Major returns, he finds that his wife bore a child and supposedly murdered it. However, what really happened , along with the travails of war, and a snapshot of slave's treatment on plantations makes this a compelling read.
Diana C. (Delray Beach, FL)

Civil War Era Mystery
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.

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A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

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