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Canaan: A Novel of the Reunited States after the War

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A saga of post-Civil War America, from the defeat of the Confederacy to the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Canaan fills a vast canvas stretching north, south, and west from Appomattox. Its points of reference are Richmond in the throes of Reconstruction; the trading floors of Wall Street, where men who did not fight the war make fortunes speculating on its consequences; a Virginia plantation—familiar to readers of the author's critically acclaimed ...
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2007 Hard cover First Printing, based on Printers key, stated first edition. New in new dust jacket. Signed by author. Inscription of "To Budd Adams-Best Wishes" signed by ... author on first title page. First edition. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 423 p. Audience: General/trade. McCiag's 1998 novel, Jacob's Ladder, and his 2008 novel, Canaan, won the Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction. [1] Jacob's Ladder also won the Library of Virginia Fiction Award, the John Eston Cooke Award for Southern Fiction, and the W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction. McCaig is a sheep farmer in rural Virginia. Read more Show Less

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Overview

A saga of post-Civil War America, from the defeat of the Confederacy to the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Canaan fills a vast canvas stretching north, south, and west from Appomattox. Its points of reference are Richmond in the throes of Reconstruction; the trading floors of Wall Street, where men who did not fight the war make fortunes speculating on its consequences; a Virginia plantation—familiar to readers of the author's critically acclaimed Jacob's Ladder—where the ruin of the South is written in wrenching detail; and the Great Plains, where the splendidly arrogant George Custer—Yellowhair—rides to his fate against Sitting Bull's warriors.

This is the story of America over twenty years of its most turbulent history. The characters are black, white, red, ex-Union, and ex-Confederate, and the principal narrator is a Santee woman, She Goes Before, who marries an ex-slave. Through her eyes we witness the hanging of her father by whites in the mass execution of 1863, Red Cloud's banquet with President Grant, and that final confrontation on the bluffs above the Little Bighorn.
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Editorial Reviews

Stephen Harrigan
Especially masterful is the trail-driving sequence, which is a model of concision, unshowy research and the easy authority of a novelist working with material he intuitively gets.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

This well-wrought sequel to McCaig's Civil War novel Jacob's Ladder(2003) covers the fractious years between Lee's surrender at Appomattox and Custer's defeat at Little Big Horn. To illustrate that complex, ugly era, the narrative follows the changing fortunes of a variety of personages—a Virginia plantation owner's family and former slaves, a Yankee carpetbagger and a railroad magnate among others. The character who best captures the contradictions that McCaig is after is Edward Ratcliff, top sergeant for the 38th Regiment, United States Colored Troops, who journeys from slave to free man to member of the South Carolina Santee Indian Tribe. Before the war, Ratcliff was known as a "hincty nigger," but his white army commander treats him with respect. After travels north and west, as a scout, a trail cook, cattle driver and sharpshooter, Edward looks for a context that affords a measure of esteem. Eventually he meets and marries She Goes Before and takes a Santee name, Plenty Cuts, because of his bullwhip scars. But as the U.S. continues the persecution of Native nations, robbing them of their natural resources, Ratcliff can no longer sustain his family. Eventually he takes a job as a scout for Custer at Little Big Horn, and his fate is sealed. McCaig's latest is authoritative and occasionally profound. (Mar.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

This historical novel continues the action of Jacob's Ladder, McCaig's 1999 novel about Civil War-era Virginia, but it is even broader and more ambitious in scope. The scene shifts between the Great Plains, a Virginia plantation, and Manhattan as a diverse group of characters—black, white, and Native American—struggle to rebuild their lives after the war. The central story is the relationship between ex-slave and Union veteran Edward Ratcliff and She Goes Before, a Santee Sioux woman who serves as the book's principal narrator. Her account culminates with the massacre of George Custer's troops at Little Bighorn in 1876. McCaig's extensive research is revealed in the book's rich historical detail and revisionist perspective. Black life in Reconstruction-era Virginia is portrayed particularly well; Jesse Burns, who rises from slavery to become a state assemblyman, embodies the modest but real gains made by blacks in that brief, hopeful time. Recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/1/06.]
—Doug Southard Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews
In the wake of the Civil War, blacks and whites struggle to make sense of their changed lives; out West, Indians struggle against the Washitu (whites). McCaig's latest, covering the years 1865 to 1876, is a partial continuation of Jacob's Ladder (1998). Here again are the Gatewoods of Virginia on their Stratford plantation, their patriarch Samuel much chastened. His heir Duncan, a Confederate major and one-armed victim, goes to work for his old boss General Mahone, now building railroads, for which he needs crossties from Samuel's sawmill. Mahone's money man Eben Barnwell, a go-getting upstart Yankee, has his sights fixed on Samuel's granddaughter Pauline. Former slave Jesse, abandoning hope of finding his wife Maggie (sold off by Samuel), is elected Assemblyman in the Virginia legislature, whose re-configuration is an important storyline. There's a lot going on here, and that's just in the East. With a frequency that induces whiplash, McCaig switches to the fortunes of the Lakota, particularly a young woman called She Goes Before, who reports unemotionally her father's hanging in Minnesota and her subsequent rape as she treks to Montana, where she will marry Ratcliff, another ex-slave and army buddy of Jesse; he is in Montana after a cattle drive from Texas. Back East Barnwell, now a millionaire, marries Pauline and saves Stratford, only to lose everything in '74, when he absconds. Westward expansion brings Custer to Montana, where Ratliff, returning to his one true home, the army, becomes his interpreter. The climax is Custer's defeat at Little Bighorn, mined in much more depth in Thomas Berger's Little Big Man (not reviewed). McCaig spreads himself way too thin in his historicalcoverage; his superficially drawn characters suffer as a result. The exception is the complex Ratcliff, who would have made a splendid lead. A brave but self-hating loner, he goes to his death chanting "Hincty Nigger," the insult he wears as a badge of honor. A husk of a novel; busy, but without cumulative power.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393062465
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/19/2007
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald McCaig, the author of Jacob's Ladder, lives in rural Virginia, where he raises sheep and trains sheepdogs.
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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    profound fascinating look at the grim Reconstruction Era

    Lee's surrender at Appomattox impacts all Americans, but especially those in the south, the border states and even out west. Everywhere people struggle to adjust to the new world order as lives and relationships have changed. In this post war era, on their Stratford plantation, family patriarch Samuel Gatewoods seems in shock as he adjusts. His son Duncan comes home having lost an arm and suffering from battle fatigue syndrome compounded by his fighting as an officer for the losing side. Instead of working the plantation, Duncan builds railroads for former Confederate General Mahone while Samuel supplies them with crossties. Mahone's financer northern carpetbagger Eben Barnwell audaciously courts Samuel¿s granddaughter Pauline. Samuel¿s freed slave Jesse gives up on his dream of reuniting with his wife Maggie sold by Samuel when he owned both of them. Instead he is elected a Virginia Assemblyman. Out west, Lakota woman She Goes Before talks about her father's hanging and her rape as she travels to Montana to marry a former slave, Union Sergeant, Ratcliff. As the years go by, Custer is in Montana along with some of those easterners like Eben who left his wife Pauline to seek a new fortune and Ratcliff returning to his military glory days. --- Though a lot is packed in this profound fascinating look at the grim Reconstruction Era, historical fiction fans will want to read Donald McCaig¿s CANAAN, the sequel to JACOB'S LADDER. Give yourself plenty of time as the back and forth action can turn complex and convoluted though always intense. The story line focuses on these harassed characters representing three races as each tries to survive a world no longer remotely what it was before the war. Americana readers will appreciate this strong look at what happened in the east, south and west from the day after Appomattox until Custer¿s Last Stand. --- Harriet Klausner

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