Brave Enemies: A Novel of the American Revolution

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Only sixteen years old, Josie Summers murders her abusive stepfather and, wearing his clothes to disguise herself as a man, flees the family farm. Almost immediately lost in the snowy woods, she accepts a young Methodist preacher's invitation to assist in his itinerant ministry. When Joseph's true identity is revealed, the Reverend John Trethman is racked with guilt at having shared his home with a young woman and then falling in love with her. His solution is to marry Josie, performing as both minister and ...
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Only sixteen years old, Josie Summers murders her abusive stepfather and, wearing his clothes to disguise herself as a man, flees the family farm. Almost immediately lost in the snowy woods, she accepts a young Methodist preacher's invitation to assist in his itinerant ministry. When Joseph's true identity is revealed, the Reverend John Trethman is racked with guilt at having shared his home with a young woman and then falling in love with her. His solution is to marry Josie, performing as both minister and bridegroom. Not long after their wedding, John is kidnapped by British soldiers and forced to minister to their wounded and bury their dead. Josie again disguises herself as a man and joins the North Carolina militia to avoid being taken for a spy. On January 17, 1781, in a wooded pasture called the Cowpens, Josie is gravely wounded in the patriots' victorious battle and despairs of ever seeing John again.
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Robert Morgan's new novel, Brave Enemies, though written for adults, evokes the same chipper universe of … children's biographies. In that vein, it might have been called ''Josie Summers: Cross-Dressing Heroine of the American Revolution.'' Although very bad things occur in this book -- limbs and heads are lopped off with the ease of a cantaloupe being sundered for breakfast -- the principal characters wander through the 18th-century wilderness of western North and South Carolina as innocents, ticketed from the start for deliverance, bloodsoaked though they may be. — Will Blythe
Publishers Weekly
With tremendous narrative pace, a meticulous eye for colorful detail and a tight grasp of historical setting and military action, poet and novelist Morgan (Gap Creek) delivers a rousing and affecting tale of the American Revolution. This gripping story of love and desperation is set in the brutal rebel-versus-loyalist bloodbath of 1780-1781 in North and South Carolina. Sixteen-year-old Josie Summers, a barefoot mountain girl, runs away from home after killing the stepfather who raped her. Alone, scared and hungry, having witnessed all kinds of violence, Josie disguises herself as a boy and is given shelter by an itinerant preacher, Rev. John Trethman. The preacher soon discovers her deception, but they become devoted to one another, and John marries her in a solitary ceremony. The two continue the deception to fool his congregation and the British authorities who are ruthlessly hunting for spies and seditionists. When John is taken prisoner by the British, who think he is a spy, Josie, now pregnant, believes her husband is dead. Still disguised as the boy Joseph, she joins a South Carolina militia company marching to the fateful battle at Cowpens in January 1781. Josie endures hunger, cold, grief, fear of discovery and the dangerous attentions of a cruel sergeant who guesses her secret. Meanwhile, John is forced to become a chaplain for the murderous dragoon legion commanded by sadistic Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton and his Tories are also marching to Cowpens, to a battle which will become known as the American Cannae. Morgan's portrayal of the savagery of the Southern war is graphic and shocking, making the love between Josie and John all the more tender and passionate. 15-city author tour. (Oct. 10) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The publishers may not have intended this book specifically for a YA audience, but the reality is that it is an excellent novel for YAs, and one that teachers will want to consider as a curriculum choice. The main character, Josie, is a 16-year-old girl living in the Carolinas during the chaos of the Revolutionary War. Her story is one of nonstop action, told in spare, utterly captivating prose. Josie is raped by her brutal stepfather (a Loyalist sympathizer); she murders him, disguises herself as a boy by cutting her hair and wearing the stepfather's clothes, and runs away in a panic. Hungry and guilt-ridden, she takes refuge in a country church, introducing herself as "Joseph," and the young preacher offers her shelter. The preacher, John, starts his own narrative account of their relationship and what befalls them, alternating with Josie's narrative. For weeks the two are companions, as John says, "like Paul and Silas," until the day he discovers his companion is actually a girl. A complicated marriage follows. While they are visiting the little country churches of John's ministry, the couple see firsthand the violence all around them: neighbor betraying neighbor-Loyalists attacking Patriots, Patriots attacking Loyalists-lynching, rape, torture, suspicion everywhere. John carefully tries to keep neutral as long as he possibly can, but eventually he is arrested by the Loyalists, accused of spying. In her boy disguise, Josie joins a group of Carolina militiamen. Ultimately, John and Josie end up in opposing camps at the Battle of Cowpens. Morgan uses all his descriptive skills to make that horrific battle real (and historically accurate) for modern-day readers. There are many violentscenes, disturbing scenes. There is the rape, and there are scenes of loving, sexual bliss between John and Josie. There are numerous earthy references to bodily functions. Yet, amazingly, perhaps because of Morgan's unique descriptions, concrete words often used poetically (Morgan is a poet as well as a novelist), what we have here as far as YAs are concerned is more of a PG-13 rating than an R, and the result is an outstanding novel, ideal for older YAs. Here are some of the moral questions Josie and John agonize over: the meaning of patriotism and the use of violence; an individual's search for his or her own answers about right and wrong; judgment and forgiveness, including forgiving and accepting oneself. KLIATT Codes: SA*-Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Algonquin Books, Workman, 309p. map., Ages 15 to adult.
— Claire Rosser
Sixteen-year-old Josie Summers is on the run. She has murdered her sexually abusing stepfather, has stolen his clothes to pose as a boy, and is running to escape her crime and her mentally unstable mother. She passes fires that she knows were set by the rebels against those suspected of being loyal to the king. She fears panthers and bears in the thick North Carolina woods. When she meets Reverend John Trethman, he invites her as the boy he knows as Joseph to travel with him. They journey together for some time before Josie's secret is revealed, and although John's initial reaction is a feeling of betrayal, he realizes that he loves Josie, and he officiates in their own marriage ceremony in his cabin. Josie becomes pregnant, but the war separates the couple. Disguised again as a boy, Josie fights for the Patriots so she can search for John. She is wounded, and fearing for her life and the life of the baby she carries, she fights valiantly to stay alive to find John and reunite her family. Morgan's last novel, Gap Creek (Algonquin, 2000), received critical acclaim, and this book should receive a similar response. The love story between Josie and John will appeal to better readers who crave romance, and the story of the Revolutionary War will appeal to military buffs because of Morgan's skill in detailing the Battle of Cowpens. This book is not for the slow or reluctant reader, but those searching for a challenging book of historical fiction will appreciate Morgan's attention to and knowledge of his topic. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketedbook recommended for Young Adults). 2003, Algonquin, 320p., Ages 15 to Adult.
—Lynn Evarts
Library Journal
Morgan's (Gap Creek) latest novel, set in his native North Carolina, tells the compelling story of two young people whose lives are shaped by the Revolutionary War. Josie Summers is only 16 when she is raped by her stepfather and rejected by her unbalanced mother. After killing her stepfather, Josie disguises herself as a boy and runs away. Lost in the woods, she stumbles upon a church and is befriended by the young Rev. John Trethman. Josie keeps her true identity concealed while living with John, but when he discovers that she is a girl, he marries her to avoid scandal. Not long after, John is seized by British soldiers, and Josie again dresses as a man and joins the North Carolina militia to avoid being hanged as a spy. Told in alternating first-person segments, John and Josie's story is one of perseverance and determination. Morgan's background as a poet is evident in the graceful language and luminous description of the countryside and in the introspectiveness and humanity of his characters. Though the horrors of battle are explicitly conveyed, the reader is left with hope for the future. Recommended for most historical fiction collections.-Ann Fleury, Tampa-Hillsborough P.L., FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Disguised as a boy, the 16-year-old wife of a Methodist circuit rider sees action in the 1781 revolutionary battle at Cowpens. How the lass comes to be toting a rifle is the bulk of southern specialist Morgan's (This Rock, 2001, etc.) latest bit of Carolina history, which opens and closes with scenes from that pivotal battle. Having driven an axe into the skull of the creepy stepfather who raped her, teenager Josie Summers has thought it best to flee her mother's Carolina homestead. Disguised in her stepfather's clothes and with her pretty hair hacked off, Josie stumbles off into the dark and roadless colonial interior with no plan other than to put some distance between herself and the crime scene. After days of fearful and freezing travel, she stumbles into a church and warms to the spiritual glow spread by the Reverend John Trethman, an unusually well-educated frontier clergyman. Hitherto unchurched and largely skeptical, Josie is attracted both to Trethman's message of salvation and to his charisma, and, with no other plans, she is happy to follow in his circuit, becoming his assistant. Fooled by the disguise, Trethman is happy to have such a bright lad to assist in the services, but their travel from church to church has led the King's forces to suspect the minister of espionage, and the couple begin to receive warnings from the edgy settlers. Trethman's inevitable discovery of Josie's true gender leads first to some surprisingly steamy frontier sex and then to a self-administered wedding. Before the two can figure out how to break the news to the congregations, Trethman is badly burned in a forest fire and then captured by the redcoats, and Josie has to hit the road, where she'll beswept up into the colonial army. Grim but interesting history, with excellent battle scenes. Author tour
New York Times Book Review
"At their finest, his stripped-down and almost primitive sentences burn with the raw, lonesome pathos of Hank Williams' best songs.
New York Times Book Review
Christian Science Monitor
"Readers of Morgan's Brave Enemies . . . are unlikely ever to take their eyes off the page—or even take a breath."—The Christian Science Monitor
Entertainment Weekly
"With a plot that tears through the Carolina underbrush like a spooked rabbit, Morgan's novel of the American Revolution traces the gender-switching drama of Josie Summers, a pioneer girl raised in the same hardscrabble landscape of his 1999 bestseller, Gap Creek."—Entertainment Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641616594
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 10/25/2003
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

ROBERT MORGAN is the author of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, most notably his novel Gap Creek and his biography of Daniel Boone, both of which were national bestsellers. A professor at Cornell University since 1971 and visiting writer-in-residence at half a dozen universities, his awards include Guggenheim and Rockefeller fellowships and an Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature. He was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2010. Find him online at
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 11, 2009

    Good for cleaning fish or starting a fire

    This is not the worst book I ever finished (that is the high point). I was expecting a historical account of the late 1700's. Instead we have a heroine (?) who is a cross between Calamity Jane and Lizzie Borden and maybe Nancy of Sid & Nancy. She axe murders her stepfather (who probably richly deserved it), falls in love with a lunatic preacher who is a textbook control freak and abuser, gets hooked on laudenum while pregnant, deserts her mother who is nuttier than she is, and these are her strong points. If there was even one character in the book with a modicum of redeeming value I missed it. Both sides of the revolutionary conflict delight in rape, torture, burning, looting, pillaging and general debauchery. All characters are one dimensional, that being demented. The battle scenes range from accurate to - did we just change authors? In one scene the killing field is completely socked in by smoke you can taste, and a minute later dead-eye Jane is picking off the officers. I give this book a huge arrrrrrrrrrgh!

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