Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Review: The Judas Field

My 86-year-old father and I flew out to Seattle (from Tennessee) a few weeks ago to visit his sister, my aunt. Strangely, my father did not bring a book with him for the long flight, so I gave him Howard Bahr's The Judas Field: A Novel of the Civl War. He devoured it well before the end of the flight, which included a long nap on his part, as well.

At several points while reading, my father said, "Listen to this." He'd then read me a beautifully poetic passage from Bahr's book. My father and I are suckers for word crafting. When he handed it back to me, he said that he really enjoyed it but didn't know if I would like it.

I did like it, actually. The Judas Field is stark and sad, but the story is well told and vivid. Cass Wakefield is a Civil War veteran, haunted by the horrors of the war. Twenty years after the war, an old friend asks him to take her to Franklin, TN, where her father and brother were killed. She wants to dig up the bodies and rebury them in Mississippi.

Cass reluctantly agrees and embarks on a painful journey full of horrific memories and an array of ghosts. The discriptions of the battles as remembered by Cass are really amazing; Bahr is masterful enough to conjure up a nearly tangible vision of the horrors of battle. This novel is the gritty heart and soul of a soldier in the midst of slaughter that was the Battle of Franklin.

The novel is beautifully written and terribly sad, but a truly mesmerizing window into how lives are altered forever by war.

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