Abraham Lincoln revealed the nation's gratitude to all of those who gave their last full measure of devotion during his address at the cemetery in Gettysburg on November 19th in 18 and 63. This story lays claim to this sentiment for those who fought for the South as well as the North.
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No Lesser Measure is a compelling historical account of the final stages of the War Between the States told through the eyes of young rebel soldier John Pendleton. The author starts his tale shortly after the battle of Gettysburg as the novel’s protagonist is being transported to the Fort Delaware Prison. We come to learn quickly that John has lost a leg in battle, but this is 1863 so rehab is non-existent especially for the enemy. In fact, our lead character seems to take it all in stride as do other war survivors on both sides. What may seem strange for our day and age seems oddly commonplace for its time. In this respect the author does an incredible job of painting the harsh realities of the Civil War experience where empathy and compassion are less important qualities than pragmatism. On the other hand, the spirit of generosity John encounters is astounding. Getting robbed as he journeys home to South Carolina is no problem for our protagonist as his needs are quickly replenished by the kindness of a stranger. After checking in with the family in South Carolina—and with their blessing—John heads back to Gettysburg to court and eventually commit to Penelope (a Northerner) who he met after his amputation in a Union military hospital and before his transport to prison. I found it interesting to watch how characters healed the fractures with their fallen brothers of the South and more important, how Southerners and blacks learned to interact with each other with the abolition of slavery. Boling’s writing style and descriptive abilities are completely in synch with his storytelling. He is truly a great writer. At times I felt completely transported back in time to Gettysburg as well as the Deep South. The author’s characters are richly developed and completely believable and authentic in their respective roles. There is a unique bond between Boling’s characters which I believe is a good representation of its time period. There is a strong sense of honor that runs through all the characters. For heaven sakes, even the highway bandits have some semblance of manners. I think it’s a good reminder of a greater universal connection regardless of time and proximity. There is an epic sensibility about this novel as we travel from Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, back to Gettysburg and ultimately out west with our protagonist. Overall the journey of John Pendleton is enlightening and satisfying. My main criticism is perhaps the story is a tad too long in that some elements of the conclusion didn’t hold up in terms of believability as compared to the first three quarters of the novel. Introducing new characters late in a novel can be risky but understandable as John heads out west for reasons I won’t spoil. Unfortunately, the story takes a turn that seems a little out of place in context to an otherwise well-crafted story. One other element worth noting is the distinct tone of Christianity interspersed throughout the story. Granted Pendleton becomes a seminary student post-Civil War which seems appropriate to the story, but there are a few more preachy instances which transcend the character and leave no doubt as to the authors personal mission to share his beliefs with others. If you’re a Christian, you’ll appreciate these moments. For more secular readers such as myself, don’t let this sway you from enjoying what is a well written good read.