Jarrettsville

Jarrettsville

4.4 11
by Cornelia Nixon
     
 

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Based on a true story from the author’s family history, Jarrettsville begins in 1869, just after Martha Jane Cairnes has shot and killed her fiancé, Nicholas McComas, in front of his Union cavalry militia as they were celebrating the anniversary of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.

To find out why she murdered him, the story steps back

Overview


Based on a true story from the author’s family history, Jarrettsville begins in 1869, just after Martha Jane Cairnes has shot and killed her fiancé, Nicholas McComas, in front of his Union cavalry militia as they were celebrating the anniversary of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.

To find out why she murdered him, the story steps back to 1865, six days after the surrender, when President Lincoln has just been killed by John Wilkes Booth. Booth belongs to the same Rebel militia as Martha’s hot-headed brother Richard, who has gone missing along with Booth. Martha is loyal to her brother but in love with Nicholas McComas, a local hero of the Union cause, and their affair is fraught with echoes of the bloody conflict just ended.

The story is set in Northern Maryland, six miles below the Mason-Dixon line, where brothers literally fought on opposing sides, and former slave-owners live next door to abolitionists and freed men. Such tension proves key to Martha’s motives in killing the man she loves, and why — astonishingly — she is soon acquitted by a jury of her peers, despite more than fifty eyewitnesses to the crime.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Post–Civil War tensions complicate the romance between an abolitionist's son and the spirited sister of a rebel sympathizer in Nixon's uneven latest (after Angels Go Naked). Four years after the war, in Jarrettsville, Md., Martha Cairnes kills her fiancé, Nicholas McComas, and demands to be arrested and hanged. The narrative then moves backward to explain how the lovers came together: Martha falls for Nick even though he has a reputation as a scoundrel. Nick, meanwhile, thinks marriage is out of the question, especially after it's revealed that his father, killed under mysterious circumstances, has left behind a mountain of debt. Yet the two are soon engaged, and Martha's brother, who may have been involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, resents Nick's efforts to support three former Cairnes slaves, and a tangle of crossed loyalties wreak havoc on the engagement. Nixon tells the tale à la Shadow Country, with a chorus of narrators, but here the variety of voices and the disparate narrative elements—historical account, tragic romance, courtroom drama—renders unclear what kind of story the author is trying to tell, and the riveting beginning is sabotaged by the restrained conclusion. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
The tragic end of a love affair precipitates an epic court case in a small Maryland town riven by the Civil War. Martha Jane Cairnes shoots Nicholas McComas to death at a celebration of the fourth anniversary of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. Nixon (Angels Go Naked, 2000, etc.) stitches together multiple narratives and points of view to describe the murder, then backtracks to explore the events that led Martha to kill. From the time they fall in love at the war's end, Nicholas and Martha are caught in its residual grudges. He comes from abolitionist ilk, while she boasts a proud Southern heritage. Various narrators economically relate their story in relay, seldom overlapping and rendering the community in lively, lifelike perspective. From the former slaves who act as nurses to the doctor who witnesses Nicholas' dying throes and his son's birth, the entire community is involved in the strangulation of an innocent love affair. Nicholas' sympathy for the newly freed slaves puts him afoul of Confederate thugs like Martha's brother Richard. Yet he is not immune from the racist mores of the day and is haunted by accusations, after she is seen regularly visiting a hurt freedman, that Martha has engaged in miscegenation. For many in Jarrettsville, codes of honor trump federally imposed law, and when Nicholas gets cold feet concerning the engagement, rumors of scandal run amok. His portions of the narrative painfully trace faltering will, self-doubt and moral decline. At Martha's murder trial, more than just one young woman stands accused. Thrilling and cathartic, this imaginative, well-crafted historical fiction meditates on morality and the complexity of motivation.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582435121
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
10/01/2009
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
640,910
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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Jarrettsville 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent-extremely enjoyable
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RLWMD More than 1 year ago
This book really takes you back to the time and lets you picture Jarrettsville as it was then. The atmosphere was enhanced with love, scandal, redemption, and also a surprise ending. A perfect book for spare time reading or special gift giving.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SaraJane17 More than 1 year ago
What I liked most about "Jarrettsville" written by Cornelia Nixon was that with the writing, you felt like you were the character and you sympathized with that character. Another thing that I really liked about the book was that once the main event, the murder, takes place, you can't put the book down or you don't want to because you want to obviously know what happens in the end. Once I finished the book and read the epilogue, it amazed me that the book was based on a true story and that the author was in some way related to their characters or people from the story. Cornelia Nixon did a great job of writing the book. Amazing! I recommend it to anyone that loves historical fiction mixed with a little romance mixed with a thriller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Be prepared to be addicted to this book, and read it cover to cover in one sitting (if you have the time!). Once i started reading this I could not put it down and looked forward to my bed time so I continue reading. Great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nixon does a magnificent job of highlighting the complexity that underlies human action and does so with a distilled and sober prose. I couldn't put the novel down and read it in one sitting. What seems like a vindication of a woman's "honor" is far more complex - intertwined with love, politics, and race in the borderline South. The nuances captured here--based on the author's meticulous research of her family member, a portion of which is reproduced in the back of the novel - are hauntingly compelling. While this isn't Faulkner in terms of style, it does appeal to something at the heart of Faulkner that grips your innards and keeps you in suspense. A well balanced novel -writerly, yet suspenseful. Touching, but not self-indulgent or idealizing of the characters. The heroine is bold, yet naive, a woman ahead of her time, yet also so limited by her time. A sterling accomplishment.