Thursday, October 25, 2007

Book Review: The Widow of the South

October 25, 2007

"All this death and dying. How is it possible to tell the story of one's life entirely with reference to death? It must surely be impossible to describe life in death, and yet I felt then--and fell now--that there is no possible way to tell the story of my life without recounting those morbid years. There is no possible way to tell the story of my farm, my town, my state, this whole ****able Southern Confederacy we were so sure of, without recounting the deaths."

This book by Robert Hicks was our Book Club's pick this month, and I absolutely loved it. The novel is based on the true story of Carrie McGavock, a woman who recovers from her own terrible losses in order to give dignity and a home to soldiers, living and dead. Most of the novel takes place during and after the Battle of Franklin toward the end of the Civil War, in which 9,200 men died in a span of 5 hours. The McGavock home, Carnton Plantation, was taken over by the Confederate Army and turned into a makeshift hospital. Carrie must cast aside her own cloud of mourning to deal with thousands of wounded and dying men, and, in doing so, she recaptures her own life.

"The violence would not end, but I still had my role to play. Someone had to do it, to be that person. I was the woman they wrote the letters to; this house was the last address of the war. Now it was the final resting place of the dead, or at least almost 1,500 of them, and they could not be left alone. I had resolved to be the designated mourner, to be the woman who would remember so others could forget."

The Carnton Plantation is a historic site in Franklin, and I am absolutely adding that to my places to see list. This was an extraordinarily well-written novel--Hicks' first. I hope there will be more.

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