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The Civil War is but the noisiest of the struggles that the ambivalent hero of this historical novel wants to distance himself from. In 1862, at age 17, John Muro is packed off from Lynchburg to the University of Virginia Medical School, a berth that exempts him from the Confederate draft. Thanks to a flood of casualties, he's soon promoted to full-fledged doctor at the local military hospital, where his sense of detachment helps him deal with the carnage of war-and spills over into the rest of his life. He coldly repudiates his family after their textile mill fails; he's so inattentive to his beautiful girlfriend, Lorrie, that she has to browbeat him into courtship; and his best friend is a wounded Union POW who awakens John's longing to head North. John appraises the world with a clinical mindset ("Her affect, surprisingly, was like that of a patient suffering from one of the tropical fevers" he observes during his first kiss with Lorrie) that excuses his passivity and irresponsibility. Debut novelist Taylor recreates the detail-if not always the spirit-of the Confederacy's Victorian language and culture. But as John struggles to avoid entanglement with the (often underdeveloped) characters around him, his coming-of-age saga remains uninvolving. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.