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Summary and book reviews of I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

I Shall Be Near To You

by Erin Lindsay McCabe

I Shall Be Near To You
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2014, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2014, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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About this Book

Book Summary

I Shall Be Near To You is the intimate story of the drama of marriage, one woman's amazing exploits, and the tender love story that can unfold when two partners face life's challenges side by side.

Rosetta doesn't want her new husband Jeremiah to enlist, but he joins up, hoping to make enough money that they'll be able to afford their own farm someday. Though she's always worked by her father's side as the son he never had, now that Rosetta is a wife she's told her place is inside with the other women. But Rosetta decides her true place is with Jeremiah, no matter what that means, and to be with him she cuts off her hair, hems an old pair of his pants, and signs up as a Union soldier.

Rosetta drills with the men, prepares herself for battle, and faces the tension as her husband comes to grips with having a fighting wife. Fearing discovery of her secret, Rosetta's strong will clashes with Jeremiah's as their marriage is tested by war. Inspired by over two hundred and fifty documented accounts of the women who fought in the Civil War while disguised as men, I Shall Be Near To You is the intimate story, in Rosetta's powerful and gorgeous voice, of the drama of marriage, one woman's amazing exploits, and the tender love story that can unfold when two partners face life's challenges side by side.

Prologue

All of us are clean for once, hair slicked back, our new kepis on, our trousers still creased, standing in the dim shop, a blue curtain draped across the wall behind us. The photo man, he makes us six press together like horses in a rainstorm. Jimmy and Henry stand on one side, then Jeremiah and me, then Will, and Sully on the end, looking even more tall and gangly next to Will. The photo man keeps telling Sully to stand still. Jeremiah's hand rests on my shoulder and my arm is round his waist. My spine shivers like we've been caught kissing in church.

The photo man finally sees what the rest of us already know about Sully and his chances of staying put. There is a burst of light. None of us jump at that, but Sully ain't still of course.

When I've given over four bits and am holding my tintype in my hand, I almost holler at Sully for ruining the picture, him nothing but a fuzzy blur leaning forward. Anyone looking will think we're good friends,...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Rosetta asks (both implicitly and explicitly) many of the other characters in the novel to keep her secret, which they do with varying degrees of willingness. Discuss the role of secrets in the novel and the impact Rosetta's secret has on her relationships—with Jeremiah, the boys, Will, Jennie, her family. Why is Rosetta so upset when her mother suggests that if Rosetta will just come home, they will never speak of what she has done?
  2. Was Rosetta right to keep the specifics of Eli's attack a secret from Jeremiah? Was she right to keep her pregnancy a secret?
  3. Discuss Rosetta's reasons for keeping secrets for others. For instance, what makes Rosetta willing to keep Will's secret? Why doesn't Rosetta confront ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Though Rosetta's dialect is often grating her spunky attitude and tenacity reveals a fascinating, appealing character. Rosetta is brave enough to choose her husband's love over a life of feminine conformity. McCabe’s novel is an engrossing one, and her main character Rosetta is unforgettable.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

[W]ithout being preachy or having an agenda, McCabe offers a feminine perspective on a dark time in U.S. history.

Kirkus

Starred Review. Based on often overlooked history, McCabe offers an extraordinary novel, one creating a memorable character through which we relive our national cataclysm.

Author Blurb Robert Hicks, New York Times bestselling author of The Widow of the South and A Separate Country
Erin Lindsay McCabe has given us an unforgettable tale of the power of love and commitment over war and all that comes with it.

Author Blurb Vanessa Diffenbaugh, New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers
Erin McCabe's I Shall Be Near to You … is a touching, emotional story that reminds us that in different times and in entirely different circumstances, we are all fighting for the same things.

Author Blurb Jennifer Chiaverini, author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker and The Spymistress
I Shall Be Near to You marks the impressive debut of a truly gifted author. Erin Lindsay McCabe's riveting story of a woman who disguises herself as a man to follow her husband into the Union army enthralls even as it wrenches the heart.

Author Blurb Lois Leveen, author of The Secrets of Mary Bowser
Told in the unforgettable voice of Rosetta Wakefield, I Shall Be Near to You is one of those wonderful stay-up-late-to-devour-another-chapter novels. Erin Lindsay McCabe strikes the perfect balance of historical research and lyrically crafted prose.

Author Blurb Sarah McCoy, author of the international bestseller and 2012 Goodreads Choice Award nominee The Baker's Daughter
The spirited voice of McCabe's indelible Rosetta demands your attention from page 1 and captures your heart with her remarkable story.

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Beyond the Book

Rose O'Neale Greenhow

Though Rosetta is a fictional character in I Shall Be Near To You, some of the people she encounters as an enlisted soldier are not. When Rosetta guards Rose O'Neale Greenhow in the Old Capital Prison, we are given some insights into a fascinating, historical figure.

Rose O'Neale Greenhow Born in Maryland in 1817, Greenhow was an ardent secessionist. She was also a vibrant socialite in Washington D.C. before the Civil War broke out. A widow and renowned hostess, Greenhow was able to move between various social groups, placing her in a unique position for spying. Information she passed to Confederate General P.T. Beauregard helped him win Bull Run. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, credited Greenhow with this victory.

She was arrested ...

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