A Separate Country

A Separate Country

3.5 41
by Robert Hicks

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Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A Separate Country is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army—and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At

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Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A Separate Country is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army—and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. At the Battle of Chickamauga, his right leg was amputated. Starting fresh after the war, he married Anna Marie Hennen and fathered 11 children with her, including three sets of twins. But fate had other plans. Crippled by his war wounds and defeat, ravaged by financial misfortune, Hood had one last foe to battle: Yellow Fever. A Separate Country is the heartrending story of a decent and good man who struggled with his inability to admit his failures-and the story of those who taught him to love, and to be loved, and transformed him.

Editorial Reviews

The Civil War marked many soldiers, but few as visibly as John Bell Hood (1831-79), the battle-scarred Confederate Army general on whom this historical novel is based. After the war, he moved to New Orleans minus one leg and with a useless left arm. (Poet Stephen Vincent Benét paid tribute to him in lines including "Yellow-haired Hood with his wounds and his empty sleeve." No one questioned the Kentuckian's bravery, but in hindsight critics accused him of being reckless and obstinate. In Robert Hick's novel A Separate Country, Hicks survives the war but succumbs to yellow fever and, for a time, to his own bitter hatred.
Charlotte Hays
…riveting…Anyone who has ever lived in New Orleans must be prepared to be made homesick, and the bizarre cast of characters, including a dwarf, a burly priest and a boy of mixed and mysterious parentage, wouldn't seem right in any city but this one. I read A Separate Country with breakneck speed for that most old-fashioned of reasons: I wanted to see what happened next. And then I eagerly read it a second time to make sure I got the complicated twists and turns. Is there a better recommendation?
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Hicks follows his bestselling The Widow of the South with the grand, ripped-from-the-dusty-archives epic of Confederate general John Bell Hood. The story begins with Hood, on his deathbed with yellow fever, dispersing a stack of papers to former war nemesis Eli Griffin, urging him to publish the general's “secret memoir.” Hood's story picks up in 1878 as he, nearly broke, reflects on the past 10 years' dwindling fortunes. Now, with an artificial leg, a bum arm and nearly no money, he and his wife, Anna Marie, live in diminished circumstances in New Orleans. Over time, their once passionate relationship grows mundane as Hood “watched the years wrench devilry and lust and joy from her face.” Things are also complicated by the violent death of Anna Marie's best friend and the reappearance of former comrade Sebastien Lemerle, who holds a nasty secret he holds about Hood's past. Meanwhile, Hood's marriage and business failures pale in comparison to the yellow fever epidemic that decimates the area. Hicks's stunning narrative volleys between Hood, Anna Marie and Eli, each offering variety and texture to a story saturated in Southern gallantry and rich American history. (Sept.)
Library Journal
After the Civil War, Confederate general John Bell Hood retired to New Orleans, where he became a businessman, married Creole belle Anna Marie Hennen, and fathered 11 children. This second novel from Hicks (The Widow of the South) opens in 1879 as Hood lies dying of yellow fever. His deathbed wish is to see his "private" memoir published in lieu of his earlier detailed accounting of the war. Hood enlists the aid of Eli Griffin, a young Tennessean who had come to New Orleans in 1875 to kill the man who led the South's defeat at the Battle of Franklin and later became enmeshed in the lives of the Hoods and the tragic events surrounding longtime friends of Anna Marie's and a former subordinate of the general's. VERDICT Suffused with racial tension, brutality, sweltering heat, and sickness, this is the tale of a warrior knowing "nothing about death, only killing" who finally seeks love and a reconciliation with God. Readers must see past the bugs and the stench of New Orleans to unravel the puzzle of these picaresque characters. Recommended for Civil War buffs and those who appreciate precise, evocative writing. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/09.]—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
A tale of mixed-up foolscap, dark secrets, a dwarf and a wharf. Tennessee-based Hicks, who debuted with a Civil War novel (The Widow of the South, 2005), ventures here into Reconstruction-era New Orleans. His hero is real-life Confederate warrior John Bell Hood (for whom the Texas fort is named), who settled after the Cause was Lost in New Orleans, where he had 11 children and otherwise kept busy. In Hicks' tense and tasty account, one of Bell's occupations is fending off the plague of unwanted characters who seek in one way or another to capitalize on his wartime renown. One is a mysterious chap named Sebastien Lemerle, a companion at arms from antebellum days. "In Texas I was young," Hood remembers. "I wanted to fight. I wanted to fight Comanche. Sebastien Lemerle and his squad came with me." For his sins, Hood gets his wish, and plenty more fights to boot. Somewhere along the way he also earns the continued attentions of Lemerle, who comes sniffing around Hood's door all these years after the Civil War has ended. Not far behind is a "little man" named Rintrah who has his fingers in many a pie, as well as a priest decidedly not on priestly business and a few assorted members of the proto-KKK, to say nothing of the foppish Beauregard, gone from Civil War hero to New Orleans wheeler-dealer and publisher, in whose hands is a manuscript of Hood's that Hood does not wish to be there. Thus the plot thickens, and Hicks spins a taut tale, told in many voices, of tangled webs, vengeance and other unfinished business. Expertly written, with plenty of unexpected twists-a pleasure for Civil War buffs, but also for fans of literary mysteries.

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Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.22(h) x 1.89(d)

What People are saying about this

Julia Reed
"Beautifully written and meticulously researched, A Separate Country brings the very separate country of late 19th century New Orleans to lush, amazing life. Hicks's novel is heartbreaking, tender, and seductive--just like the city in which it is set. I fell completely in love with these characters and I adore this book. A Separate Country is a richly imagined, redemptive tale of one of the Confederacy's most controversial generals. I couldn't put it down."--(Julia Reed, author of The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story)
Lee Smith
"Robert Hicks has done it again! Like New Orleans, the past itself is always "another country," but Hicks transports us there with ease. Master of voice, character, and atmosphere, here is a born storyteller who has found an unforgettable story to tell."--(Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls)
James Lee Burke
"Robert Hicks writes beautifully. His re-creation of New Orleans and its fatal beauty and the courage of its people is stunning. The narrator's voice has the historical authenticity of Ishmael's or Huck Finn's. As soon as you begin reading A Separate Country, the reader knows he's in the hands of a pro."--(James Lee Burke, author of Swan Peak)

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Meet the Author

Robert Hicks has been active in the music industry in Nashville for twenty years as both a music publisher and artist manager. The driving force behind the perservation and restoration of the historic Carnton plantation in Tennessee, he stumbled upon the extraordinary role that Carrie McGavock played during and after the Battle of Franklin. He is the author of The Widow of the South.

Brief Biography

Franklin, Tennessee
Date of Birth:
January 30, 1951
Place of Birth:
West Palm Beach, Forida

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