The Disagreement
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The Disagreement

3.6 6
by Nick Taylor
     
 

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It is April 17, 1861 — the day that Virginia secedes from the Union and the sixteenth birthday of John Alan Muro. As the Commonwealth erupts in celebration, young Muro sees his dream of attending medical school in Philadelphia shattered by the sudden reality of war.

Muro's father, believing that the Disagreement will pass, sends his son instead to

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Overview

It is April 17, 1861 — the day that Virginia secedes from the Union and the sixteenth birthday of John Alan Muro. As the Commonwealth erupts in celebration, young Muro sees his dream of attending medical school in Philadelphia shattered by the sudden reality of war.

Muro's father, believing that the Disagreement will pass, sends his son instead to Charlottesville. Jefferson's forty-year-old University of Virginia has become a haven of rogues and dilettantes, among them Muro's roommate, Braxton Baucom III, a planter's son who attempts to strike a resemblance to General "Stonewall" Jackson. Though the pair toasts lightheartedly "To our studies!" with a local corn whiskey known as "The Bumbler," the war effort soon exerts a sobering influence. Medical students like Muro are pressed into service at the Charlottesville General Hospital, where the inexperienced Dr. Muro saves the life of a Northern lieutenant, earning the scorn of his peers.

As the war progresses, Muro takes up yet another cause — winning the affections of the beguiling Miss Lorrie Wigfall. Here, too, Muro faces a cunning adversary. Just as the fighting is closing in, Muro is forced to make a choice that will shape the rest of his life. In this story of love, loyalty, and unimaginable sacrifice, a doctor struggles to balance the passions of youth with the weight of responsibility.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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.
Kirkus Reviews
A coming-of-age story is merged with a Civil War tale in Taylor's debut novel. Narrator John Naro, of Lynchburg, Va., turns 16 the day in 1861 that his state secedes from the Union. The town rejoices but his father's reaction is muted, even though his wool mill benefits from new orders, necessitating the purchase of more slaves. The reality of the war hits home when cousin Sam returns, having lost a leg at Manassas. The following year John's father allows him to leave for Charlottesville, to become a medical student at the University of Virginia (the author's alma mater); it's here that John's story really starts. The war soon forces him to move from the classroom to the adjacent hospital, where he accompanies his professor, Dr. Cabell, on rounds, gaining priceless hands-on experience; his limited spare time he spends courting Lorrie, Cabell's beautiful but prickly niece. Taylor wears the past as comfortably as an old shoe, and the credibility of John's hospital experience is the novel's greatest strength; however, this tight focus sometimes seems like tunnel vision. It's not as though life back in Lynchburg lacks for drama. On a visit home, John finds Sam, now running the mill, has freed all the slaves, to the dismay of their picketing neighbors. Yet his family, falling apart as bankruptcy looms, gets less attention from the author than a Christmas dinner Lorrie prepares for the hospital, or her elite social circle. While John labors selflessly in the wards, his rejection of his now invisible family becomes ice-cold and total. He replaces them with a surrogate father, a lieutenant from the North whose life he saved, and Lorrie, who he marries in 1864. The surrender of the university,quietly negotiated by the faculty chairman, counts for less than John's marital problems. His desperate attempt to end those problems leads to a melodramatic turnaround. Misplaced emphases and a somewhat sanctimonious lead weaken an otherwise robust debut. Agent: Jennifer Carlson/Dunow, Carlson & Lerner
From the Publisher
"In this dazzling debut novel, a young Virginia medical student must choose between family and ambition in the crucible of the American Civil War. Author Nick Taylor arrives on the literary scene like a cross between Stephen Crane and Scott Fitzgerald — with the sensibility of Charles Frazier. Seductive, authentic, and unforgettable, The Disagreement is an instant classic." — Ian Caldwell, author of The Rule of Four

"Nick Taylor's vivid characters and powerful descriptions tell a compelling story that captures the voices, beauty, and tumult at the University of Virginia during the Civil War." — John T. Casteen, III, president, University of Virginia

"I loved Nick Taylor's gutsy prose; even at its most lyrical, it never fails to offer a particularly evocative glimpse of a troubling time. Here is a story about our soul-destroying fratricidal war that uses the narrowest of prisms to offer a wider vision. A genuine accomplishment." — Beverly Swerling, author of City of Dreams and City of Glory

"At its best, historical fiction reveals the truth or reality of the past. Nick Taylor has achieved this in his very fine book. Taylor has chosen to see the Civil War's human wreckage through the eyes of a young Confederate surgeon at a hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia. The result is a compelling and moving novel." — Jeffry D. Wert, Civil War historian

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416550655
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
04/01/2008
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.16(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Disagreement
A Novel


By Nick Taylor
Simon & Schuster
Copyright © 2008 Nick Taylor
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416550655


Chapter 1

On April 17, 1861, I enjoyed the sensation of one whose birthday falls on Christmas. I woke unusually early, along with everyone in the Commonwealth of Virginia. That day our legislature was to vote on secession -- a crisis that had begun as a whisper among gossipmongers not a year prior but had grown with the frenzy of a revival into a statewide obsession. The newspapers had for weeks detailed the debate in Richmond, from the rhetorical thrusts and parries at the statehouse to the curt and somber replies of Mr. Lincoln, whose anointment the previous autumn so inflamed the passions of our men.

As a youth of fifteen, I had not been involved substantially in the secession crisis, but I enjoyed the high drama of the proceedings, and I followed them with a greedy eye. Earlier that spring my father had hosted a meal for our delegate and a dozen men of business. The ostensible purpose of the gathering had been to gauge local support for secession, but these being men of practical appetites, the talk soon turned to the prospect of war and the demands this might place on our local mills and factories. "If there is any fighting," the pompous delegate announced, "it shan't continue long enough to bring any lucrehereabouts, fellows. The Yanks know our purpose, and they know our differences, and they will respect our intention sooner or later. The thought in Richmond, I must tell you, is that they will be too blanched to fight." The men laughed and clapped one another on the back. This I observed from the sanctuary of our kitchen, where I had finished helping Mother and Peg with the service and was eating my share at the kitchen table.

The delegate -- his name was Coggin -- was distinguished by a pair of unruly snow white eyebrows that sprung from his face like owl feathers. He was a consummate politician -- which is to say he was given to expedient speech and lacked even a vestigial spine.

The telegraph from Mr. Coggin, who was in Richmond for the vote, arrived at the Lynchburg post office just after one o'clock. I had spent the morning in the square, pitching horse-shoes with some other boys. Though it was a Wednesday, we had not shown our faces at school, feeling assured that a Special Circumstance excused us from truancy.

The taverns along the square were packed with a rare noonday crowd. Like me, these citizens could not bear to wait any longer for the news than was absolutely necessary. However, decorum mandated that these men not be seen loitering with boys in the street, so they made pretenses at business and meal taking. The tavern doors could almost be seen to bulge with the swell.

At the doors of the town stable, across the square from the post office, a circle of five or six Negroes gathered in idle chatter. As Wednesday was seldom a slave's day at liberty, I assumed that these had been sent by their masters to await the news and carry it back post-haste. Indeed, the animals in the first stalls were ready in saddle, with reins tied quickly to the rail.

Just after the one o'clock bell the post office door swung open and the postmaster -- a wasted but well-meaning old man by the name of Tad Keithly -- strode out onto the top step. Those of us near enough saw his smile ablaze, and we could guess the news. In truth, though, no one ever questioned what the news would be. "I have word from Mr. Coggin!" the postmaster shouted generally -- the taverns having emptied into the square, so that his audience numbered well into the hundreds. "The votes are in, and they are eighty-eight in favor, fifty-five opposed." He paused and let that little bit of silence grow like the drop of melt at the tip of an icicle. "Gentlemen, we have it! God bless the unencumbered Commonwealth of Virginia!" And then Keithly's eyes began to water. Indeed, all around me grown men began to weep and embrace one another. I saw that it was not regret in their tears but rather the opposite. With unbridled joy men commenced to cheer and whoop and fire their pistols into the air. I hollered from a place deep between my lungs, but the crack of gunfire obscured my voice. I did not know if I was creating any sound at all.

The air reeked with the acrid tang of powder. My nose filled up with dust from the street as horses thundered out of the stable. I ran to the door of the nearest tavern to avoid being trampled. A few men remained inside the tavern, and I recognized several as business acquaintances of my father, men who had been present at our dinner with Mr. Coggin. The eldest of these, a man whose mustache puffed out over his lip like a squirrel's tail, stood up to begin a toast. I could not hear his words, but several times he brought laughter from the group and had to pause. At last he raised a bottle of whiskey above his head. As the others cheered, the old man put the bottle to his lips and drank a ten count. When he pulled off, a runnel of brown liquor leaked from the side of his mouth and he wiped it with his starched white cuff.

Taking heed not to fall into the path of a messenger's horse, I picked my way to the other side of the square, beyond which I would hasten home. On Wednesdays the street that led most directly from the square to our neighborhood was filled out with grocers' stalls, and it was in front of one of these that I was stopped by a flat hand in my chest. A white farmer obscured my path. His beard was shot through with petals from the spring lungwort. After a moment's consideration of my face, he lowered his hand and plunged it into a sack hanging at his side, from which he removed a yellow rose. "God bless," he said, and he handed me the flower.Copyright © 2008 by Nick Taylor



Continues...


Excerpted from The Disagreement by Nick Taylor Copyright © 2008 by Nick Taylor. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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From the Publisher
"Dufris narrates with a brisk Southern accent that sounds as natural as the story is earnest. The result is endlessly entertaining." —-AudioFile

Meet the Author

NICK TAYLOR is a journalist and the critically acclaimed author of nine books. He lives in New York City.

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