The Widow of the South

The Widow of the South

by Robert Hicks


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Carnton Plantation, 1894: Carrie McGavock is an old woman who tends the graves of the almost 1,500 soldiers buried there. As she walks among the dead, an elderly man appears—the same soldier she met that fateful day long ago. Today, he asks if the cemetery has room for one more.

Based on an extraordinary true story, this brilliant, meticulously researched novel flashes back to 1864 and the afternoon of the Civil War. While the fierce fighting rages on Carrie's land, her plantation turns into a Confederate army hospital; four generals lie dead on her back porch; the pile of amputated limbs rises as tall as the smoke house. But when a wounded soldier named Zachariah Cashwell arrives at her house, he awakens feelings she had thought long dead—and inspires a passion as powerful and unforgettable as the war that consumes a nation.

*Includes reading group guide*

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446697439
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 09/26/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 107,052
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.12(d)

About 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.


Franklin, Tennessee

Date of Birth:

January 30, 1951

Place of Birth:

West Palm Beach, Forida

Read an Excerpt

From the Prologue


Carrie watched him go and then turned to Mariah, whom she had once owned, a gift to her from her father. She was a gift, whatever the meaning and implications of that word. Mariah had been her tether to the earth when things had spun away, when Carrie wasn't sure if there remaineda real and true life for her, and then when she wasn't sure if she wanted that life even if it existed. Things had been different once. She couldn't believe that she had ever been so . . . what? Weak? No, that wasn't it. She'd never been weak. She'd been buffeted and knocked down, like grass bent to the ground by the wind preceding a thunderstorm. She'd been slow to get up. But she did get up, eventually. There had been no choice. She was not afraid of much, and she especially wasn't afraid of God. Not anymore, not for a long time.

"Mariah, what do you see?"

A mockingbird chased a hawk across the width of the cemetery, diving and chattering at the black shadow until it was banished from whatever bit of territory the smaller bird claimed for its own.

"I see a mockingbird. And some of them yellow birds. Finches. Big old bird with claws, too."

Mariah looked past her mistress, across the field of tall grass.

424 Killed at Franklin/Mississippi

"You know that isn't what I mean."

Carrie could see the markers and the grass, and the iron fence ringing the graveyard. She could turn and see the back of her house and remember the beards on the dead generals laid out on the porch below and the keening of the wounded on the balcony above. She could see just fine. But there was more to seeing than that, she thought. It was either a failure of imagination or a slight by the Lord Himself, but in any case she could not see the things Mariah could see. Mariah could tell her about things that gave her comfort, and Carrie cared not a whit about how she came upon the knowledge.

She pointed at a grave marker in the Tennessee section. MJM, it read. In places, twigs leaned against the stones. She made a mental note to tell the yard boy about them.

"What about him? That one."

"Miss Carrie, please, ma'am. This ain't right."

Carrie stared hard at the seam of her dress, where the new thread of her latest mending stood out like a long dark cord against the faded black of her ankle-length dress. She hadn't known how to sew before the war, and she still wasn't very good at it. They would have to dye the whole thing soon.

"I would like to know about that man."

Mariah wasn't sure that what she saw in her mind was real, just the product of a fevered imagination, or maybe the work of the devil himself making her play games with the white woman whom she loved in a way she could not describe. Fragments of light and sound came to her when she let her mind drift, and the words Carrie craved formed on Mariah's lips unbidden. It was a thoughtless exercise, a pastime to while away an afternoon. The thing she did know, the only thing she knew for sure, was that Carrie believed. Mariah could feel that on her.

"I don't know what to say, ma'am."

"Yes, you do. Don't play. We're too old for that. Tell me what you see when you stare into the earth right there. Don't hold back. I know when you're holding back."

Mariah closed her eyes and went silent, hoping Carrie would forget her little obsession and keep walking. But Carrie stayed put, so Mariah began to speak.

"There a man and a boy. It sunny. They ain't working, so maybe they just home from church."

"How old?"

"The man, he a man. Got a beard. Dark, strong. He ain't old or young. The boy, he just a little one, though he think he bigger. Maybe ten. He got a fishing pole in his hand. They going to catch fish."

"Is there a woman?"

"She dead."

"How do you know that?"

"'Cause they going out fishing in they church clothes."

She heard him before she saw him. A small cough, followed by a louder, deeper cough that he tried to swallow back. She turned toward the house and there, in the path between the gravestones, stood an old man. A surprisingly old man. He was thin and pepper-haired, and his eyes were too dark for her to see where he was looking. They were set back too far in his head to distinguish them from the shadows. He stood up tall and held his old bowler in his hand. She could see him nervously massaging his knuckles under the hat, which caused a little halo of dust to rise up off the felt. He wore a long coat that was slightly too short and scuffed boots. His mouth was twisted up in what appeared to be a smirk, but which she knew was not. He watched her closely and walked toward her with the faintest hint of a limp, enough to make her heart break. The twisted and dried-out parts of him still contained just the memory of his old beauty-all the parts of him were still there, they'd just been used up. He stood before her, so close she could hear the air whistling in and out of him. She knew him immediately, as if he'd left only the day before.

"Why'd you scare that boy, Mrs. McGavock?"

"I love that boy."

"He one of yours?"

"Do I look like he could be my child?"

"I meant, is he your grandson or something? That's possible, ain't it?"

"No, he's not my grandson, just a stray off the street."

"Just a stray," the man repeated.

They paused and looked at each other, and Carrie felt angry that he'd come without warning. The feeling passed. She pushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear and squinted hard at him.

"I didn't mean to insinuate anything," she said.

"I reckon I ain't had anyone insinuate anything about me in a long time. I didn't take no offense."

"But none was meant."

The old man stopped and toed at the grass with his foot. He looked around at the grave markers like he had misplaced something. He started to sway a little, and Mariah moved quickly behind him, ready to steady him if she had to, but not willing to speak or acknowledge him. He spoke again.

"I thought we decided a long time ago that folks don't always know what they mean. Or what things mean, for that matter."

Carrie considered this. "I suppose we did."

The old man bent over in a fit of coughing, slapping at his breast pocket until he found an old handkerchief to spit into. Mariah bent over him with her hand on his back and looked up at Carrie like she'd just seen something she wished she hadn't. He stared at his handkerchief, snorted dismissively, and put it away, all the while bent over like he was catching his breath.

Carrie had the feeling that she was falling. How could he be like this? This was not the man she'd known, not the man she remembered. The air spun and hummed around her.

She walked to his side and took his chin in her hand, hard, and pulled until he was looking her in the eye. Mariah cried out and tried to stop her, but Carrie waved her off. She saw him fully for the first time and reached with her other hand to wipe rheumy tears from the corners of his eyes and to feel the loose drape of his skin over sharp cheekbones. He struggled to keep from coughing in her face.

"What's the matter with you, soldier?"

She let him go, and he slowly stood up straight. He held his bowler near his mouth, just in case.

"Well, I reckon I can guess, but I ain't seen anyone who could tell me straight. Can't afford such a person. I've been thinking that, after all these years, I might finally die and not know for sure what killed me. That makes me laugh some."

Carrie said nothing, and then: "If I were to guess from your past history, I would say you'll outlive us all."

"I once thought I was cursed that way, yes, ma'am. But no more. There ain't no more curses out there. My history don't mean nothing. Not anymore, thank God."

She could picture him as a younger man, lying bleeding on the floor of her parlor and then sitting up in one of the chairs of her husband's study, staring out the window. She remembered his nose and how sharp it was in profile, how the light seemed changed after passing over it. He was like a cameo; at least that's what her mind remembered. She'd become used to him quickly, and back then she thought he'd be there forever. Then he was gone. She closed her eyes.

"If you're going to die, there's a place for you here."

"That's what I meant to ask you about."

Copyright © 2005 by Robert Hicks

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions from the Publisher
1. It seems that Carrie doesn't come alive until literally everyone around her is dying. Why do you think it took her home being taken over by the Confederate Army and turned into a hospital to awaken Carrie out of her stupor?

2. Do you believe that Zachariah really wanted to die when he picked up the colors on the battlefield? Why does Nathan Stiles spare Zachariah on the battlefield specifically, when others carrying the colors were killed? Is Zachariah grateful to be spared, or is he regretful, or a little of both, and why?

3. Does John McGavock undergo a character transformation from the beginning of the novel, when he and Theopolis encounter the gang of ruffians in the woods, to the end, when we see scenes him of him wandering around Franklin somewhat aimlessly? How do you think he views the war? How do you think he views his role, or his non-role, in the war? And how does this compare with Carrie's attitude towards the war?

4. In the author's note Robert Hicks says of Mariah, "… I have concluded that Mariah may well have been the most complete human of them all." Mariah never let her enslavement define her. Do you agree?

5. Discuss how the death of their children affected both Carrie and John. What is the difference between the attachment mothers and fathers have with their children? Do you think John would have begun drinking whether his children had died or not? And do you think Carrie had a propensity for eccentricity and seclusion?

6. When Carrie first notices Zachariah in her upstairs guest room, she remarks: "Unlike most of the men, he looked ready to die. He looked as if he were welcoming it, urging it along…I wanted his eyes on me." Why does Carrie take to Zachariah, and why does she later give him special treatment? Do you think it was purely physical attraction? Does Zachariah's welcoming of his own death conflict with Carrie's values?

7. Faith plays a large part in each character's motivations. Discuss the role of belief in a higher power and how it guides Carrie, Zachariah, and Mariah in their actions. For most of us, our belief system changes or 'grows' over the span of our lives, one way or the other. How did Carrie's faith change over the span of the novel?

8. Why do you think Carrie beats Zachariah on the porch? Were you surprised by this or did you understand it?

9. Zachariah and Carrie have an intense love affair yet it's never consummated sexually. Do you think the fact they never were physically intimate takes away or adds to their relationship, or does it matter?

10. At one point Carrie tells Mariah, "You always could have left, even when you weren't allowed. I would have never stopped you." Do you think this is true? Carrie seems to think of Mariah as her best friend, but she was really her property, a "gift" her father gave to her as a child. Do you think Carrie tries to make herself appear a better friend/owner than she really was? Discuss Carrie and Mariah's relationship. Could friendship really transcend enslavement?

11. Among the political issues leading up to the Civil War was the South's strong adherence to the doctrine of 'state's rights.' Among the issues to come out of the war was the emancipation of the enslaved in the 'slave states,' whether they had remained loyal to the union or had seceded and joined the Confederacy. Yet, neither of these political issues is ever addressed 'head-on' in the book. Why do you think that is?

12. Carrie comes from a rich, educated family. She is "learned." Zachariah is poor, and almost illiterate. Yet do you think one is wiser than the other?

Robert Hicks has said, "good writing is about transformation." We see transformation in Carrie, Zechariah and in their relationship, in John, in his and Carrie's relationship, in Mariah and her relationship with Carrie. Are we left with any sense that Mr. Baylor ever comes to any real peace about what has happened?

13. What does Carrie mean when she says the following to Zachariah: "You are my key. You will explain things I have not been able to understand…I want you to explain to me why I wanted you to live and why I was able to make you live. Because I don't understand, not really, and the answer is very important to me." What is Carrie not able to understand about herself, and what answer does she think Zachariah will be able to provide?

14. Carrie takes Eli into her home and he quickly assumes the role of a surrogate son and Winder's surrogate brother. How do Carrie's actions speak to her changing perceptions of family? Has her work running the hospital changed her maternal instincts or is she simply responding to the nature of war?

15. At the town party, Carrie remarks about how she doesn't fit in with the other women; Mrs. McEwen pokes fun of her efforts and jokingly calls her "St. Carrie." Why do these women resent Carrie, and does it bother her? Does Carrie see herself as saintly?

16. In 1894, after John has died, and Mariah, Carrie and Zachariah are all elderly, why does Zachariah not profess his love for Carrie more overtly? Over time, did his love become more of respect and admiration for her heroism, or are his feelings for her just as romantically intense?

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The Widow of the South 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 162 reviews.
songcatchers More than 1 year ago
The Widow of the South takes place during and after a bloody Civil War battle in Franklin, Tennessee. The title refers to a very real lady who's plantation house becomes a make-shift hospital for the confederate troops. When a neighbor man wants to plow his field under, the same one where the battle took place, Carrie takes it upon herself to dig up the 1,500 soldiers that lie in that field and bury them in her own. She creates a cemetery where she keeps watch over the dead and remembers them so that others can forget. This novel tells Carrie's story but also adds a fair share of fictional characters that add more element to the book for entertainment's sake.

The Battle of Franklin is over and done with in the first hundred pages. The rest of the novel is dedicated to relationships. The relationship between Carrie and a certain soldier who makes her feel alive after so many years of mourning for her three dead children. The relationship between Carrie and her slave Mariah who have been together since birth. The relationship between confederate and union, slave and freed slave, husband and wife. Maybe most importantly this is a story of introspection....Carrie's relationship with herself. She craves meaning and the significance of life and she finds it in Zachariah, a worn out hero of the war who loses a leg in the battle and finds life again at the McGavock plantation hospital.

This is a well researched historical novel surrounding a not-so-well-known lady who devoted her life in caring for the wounded and then the dead in the aftermath of the five bloodiest hours of the Civil War. The Widow of the South is a beautifully written story with characters who have real emotional depth. I'd really like to see more books come from this author!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shared this with everyone I could! Read this book in three days, gave it to my mom and she loved it. For anyone who wants to feel the love, fear and dedication that true southern woman went thtough. Curl up and enjoy!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written....didn't want it to end....looking forward to his next book
ZokiLH More than 1 year ago
The author admits that the wounded soldier was put in their for interest; but, I am glad she wasn't alive.....I don't think she would have liked the romantic interest aspect. Other than that it was a fantastic book and if you ever have a chance to go see the plantation and cemetery, do, it is absolutely fantastic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My cousin and I drove to L.A. together and wished it would have been longer. We both enjoyed the book.
casanders2015 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book to read if you've ever visited the Carnton Plantation. Adds much depth and meaning to the tour at the site.
indygo88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very moving book about a nearly-forgotten battle to those of us who have very limited knowledge of the details of the Civil War. This pays homage to many of the fallen soldiers of the Confederate Army, both identified and non-identified. Furthermore, it pays tribute to Carrie McGavock who devoted much of her life to preserving the memory of these soldiers. Many of the historical details are based on fact, interwoven with the author's interpretation of Carrie's relationship with these soldiers & with one in particular. As a reader who is largely ignorant of the facts surrounding the Civil War, I found this book very enlightening and it has piqued my interest into further exploration, with an additional desire to travel to some of these historical sites. Having read the abridged audiobook version, I think this is definitely one instance where an unabridged reading would greatly enhance the reader's enjoyment & appreciation of historical detail, & had I read that, my star rating would've probably been higher.
wirtley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not my favorite book. There were alot of characters and the story bounced around alot.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of those works of historical fiction in which the historical part was really interesting, but the fiction was just so-so. Carrie mcGavock,aka The Widow of the South and The Keeper of the Book of the Dead, is a fascinating historical figure. She realized her purpose in life after the nightmarish battle in franklin Tennessee during the Civil War. Her purpose? To care for and watch over the dead, numbering 9200! I was not particularly engaged by the fictional part of the story however. It felt as if the author was trying too hard t make each character amazing in some way, and the plot too mystical. For me it just didn't work.
hammockqueen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Carrie walks among the cemetery with her book of facts and enters the names as Mariah has the vision of information . A war story of nursing the sick. civil war story of great impact. A huge battle in Franklin, in Carrie's backyard lands puts her into one of the last civil war battles. Her home becomes a hospital and she tends the sick. She never leaves and then spends her life tending the graves she fights to keep. Well written and very good.
lindymc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Based on a true happening. Following the horrendous Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, late in the Civil War, Carrie McGavock's plantation home becomes a field hospital. A couple of years later, thru her effjorts, nearly 1500 of the dead are moved from the burial "trenches" of the battlefield to be re-buried on McGavock land, now a Confederate cemetary.
pricelessreads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The fact that this was a true story was the only reason I trudged through the terrible writing. The author got caught up in the unimportant fictional details and let the beauty of the true story fall through the cracks. The Widow of the South is the true story of a woman who, unwillingly at first, gives her house over as a hospital and later a graveyard for the fallen soldiers in the Battle of Franklin.
kelawrence on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was awesome - a great read in an amazing time in America's history.
susiesharp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting piece of fiction/non-fiction.I found Carrie very interesting so much so that I looked her up online and found pictures(I listened to this one audio) and information that really made her come to life.That being said the fictional account of Carrie and Zachariah was well a little hard for me she being a southern belle and propriety and all.I think it would have been just as good of a book if the opening of the hospital and the events from there would have brought her and John close again.Instead of the rift between them continuing even though he supported her moving the soldiers.Carrie was a strong southern woman who I did enjoy learning about.
jmchshannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Widow of the South is a novel that sneaks up on the reader. The juxtaposition of narrators is unsettling. Just when the reader feels comfortable with the direction of the novel, the shift in narration forces the reader to pay closer attention and reevaluate the knowledge already gleaned from the other perspectives. However, before one realizes it, the story meshes in a way that melts the heart while causing one to rethink previously told stories about the South during the Civil War. In other words, the forced attention and extra work are well worth the efforts for the pagentry and beauty behind Mr. Hicks' words.Make no mistake, The Widow of the South is not all beauty. Mr. Hicks presents an unflinching account of battle and its aftermath, from the battlefield to the hospital and life as an amputee. The stories are told with stark honesty, not romanticizing the battle or post-battle life in any way. The straightforward delivery, while rather gruesome in its descriptions, adds realism, and yet poignancy, to horrible situations. The Widow of the South demolishes every romantic ideal about the Civil War and creates a new picture for the reader - one that truly reflects that "war is hell."Just as the story unfolds one scene, one narrator at a time, Carrie McGavock grows and develops page after page until she represents a true steel magnolia, for which the South is so famous. Beset by grief and depression, the Carrie in the beginning of the novel is not the same Carrie McGavock at the end of the novel. As we see how the soldiers fare after the battle, we also see Carrie use her grief to help care for the soldiers directly under her care and later for all soldiers of the battle. She rediscovers what love means, what duty means, but more importantly, who she is and her unwavering values. The self-discovery and journey Carrie travels through the novel to become the ultimate Widow of the South is made precious by the backdrop of the political and social climate she faces. Zachariah Cashwell is worth mentioning as an excellent foil for Carrie, as he is the one to force her to reevaluate her life to date and what she means to do with her future. He does not coddle her or treat her with the social propriety that is her due. Rather, in Carrie, he eventually recognizes the fact that she is as injured as he is, albeit her injuries are more subtle and well-hidden. Together, they are able to heal each other's physical and spiritual wounds, finding a love so sweet and special that it endures across the decades. Yet, this is not a love story between a man and a woman. The Widow of the South is ultimately a love story between those that are lost and those that are left behind. It is a reminder that one should never forget another's sacrifice. As previously mentioned, this is by no means an easy story. The all-too-realistic descriptions of battle and surgery can leave a reader squeamish. Also, Carrie's narration reflects her mental state. When she is depressed and completely upset, her narration reflects her unrest. As Carrie grows in determination and gathers the cloak of responsibility closer to her, her narration takes on a much more focused aspect. Still, it is not easy wading through her muddled perspective.I did struggle with the novel in the beginning, especially with the multiple narrators and not having the visual cues to remind me who was speaking. As I mentioned, Carrie was particularly difficult to decipher as to her meaning, and it took me a bit longer than I would have expected to be able to determine that she was clinically depressed. Eventually, I came to enjoy the different narrators. Each person lent its own uniqueness to each character, and I particularly enjoyed the care each narrator took to authenticate his or her character's voice. I'm not certain I would have cared about each character as much had I read the book versus listened to it on audio. In this particular instance, the audio version hi
cyderry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't exactly know what to expect from this book and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. This is the tale of the little recognized Civil War Battle of Franklin in Tennessee and how it affected the people in the town near the battlefield. It also brings to light the efforts that were made by the townspeople to preserve the cemetery and Carnton home where so many soldiers were taken after the battle.This book appears to be a tribute to Carrie McGavock and her slave/friend Mariah. These two women of the south worked diligently to care for the wounded and to provide solace to the families of the soldiers who died in the battle.Carrie McGavock is the normal southern woman, wife and mother. Before the battle, her life is filled with depression and grief related to the death of 3 of her young children. It seems that Carrie doesn't come alive until literally everyone around her is dying. The Confederate Army turns her home into a hospital and together, Carrie and Mariah work to ease the suffering of the survivors. Carrie becomes involved emotionally involved with Zachariah Cashwell, a Confederate sergeant who Carrie sends to the surgeon for a leg amputation. Their time together is cut short when Cashwell is sent to a Union prison. Carrie's spirit turns to protection of the cemetery where the Confederate soldiers are buried and she and her husband John work to have the soldiers reburied on the land when the original cemetery is threatened.The historical facts are cleverly woven throughout the fictional story, enlightening the reader while enhancing the story.
Talford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed listening to this book. Has a lot of historical detail and tells about a time in our history that was a very controversal time.
julie10reads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book on the basis of a recommendation by Library Thing. There is something about the Civil War that always draws me; hopefully not in a voyeuristic or ghoulish way. The Battle of Franklin was new to me: occurring just months before the end of the war and involving more casualties in 5 hours than during the 19 hours of D-Day, according to author Robert Hicks.Hicks uses Carrie McGavock's (the widow of the book's title) point of view to drive the story and the book describes the impact of this famously lost battle on individuals, on a way of life, on the South and the North. I like that. I would not have persisted through a military account. I found the book too long (over 400 pages) but still able to hold my attention even though the battle itself ends by page 115.
mvshamrock on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The descriptions of the Civil War battle were by far the best that I have ever read. The author does a wonderful job of describing battle and what people go through. In the end, I found myself not enjoying the characters, particularly that of the lead female. I felt that the book tried to do more than it intended and I found its attempts not to be a love story while telling a war love story distracting. The first half of the book was MARVELOUS. The second half left something to be desired. on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and the many characters within. The author's note in the back with a short biography of the Battle at Franklin and Mrs. Mcgavock (which included pictures) really brought the story from fiction to reality. However, the book was not as focused on Mrs. Mcgavock as I had expected, though not necessarily a bad thing. We learn about many people affected by the Battle at Franklin, and their stories and perspectives of the city and other characters. Mrs. Mcgavock's story is the most important and ultimately every character in the book will cross her path, threading another string into the many circumstances and people who are involved in her life.The author did a great job at capturing the limitations of humans; their mistakes, regrets, morbid thoughts, hopes and dreams. A soldier does not go into war with the bravery of a lion, and with the lust to see blood. They are each scared to death and had to trick themselves in order to "appear" brave. The man who flung his weapons down to better hoist a Confederate flag on his back, ran toward the enemy not because of courage and bravery...but because he figured he would survive running to the enemy defenseless. They would take pity on him. How much more human can you get?And that's what this book is about; the limitations of men and women. It is about humans trying to cope with the consequences of war, and the results are almost always not good. But that's what war brings; tragedy. This book does a great job at capturing the tragic life of many individuals in Mrs. Mcgavock's orbit and how they try to survive.I found myself wanting to read more about Mrs. Mcgavock than what was offered and it would have been nice to read more about her thoughts. Perhaps the author did not want to deviate too much and make her historically inaccurate, and I respect that. The author's intent seems to reflect this idea, despite the cover page and title. It is a book about Mrs. Mcgavock, yes, but also about the people who deemed her worthy of the name "Widow" of the South.
samfsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A historical novel about Carrie McGavock, who just happened to live on the the edge of a battle in the waning months of the Civil War. Her house was used for a field hospital, and the battle was one of the bloodiest of the war. Later she led an effort to move the dead from their hasty burial places on the battlefield to a cemetery on her property.This is a novel about those facts, and the author focuses on the attempts by the survivors to make sense of what has happened. Why did so many die, and for what? It is essentially an unanswerable question, I think, although the author makes a valiant attempt.A lot of the novel is devoted to answering those questions. In my opinion, maybe too much. Late in the novel there is a little bit of drama as the battleground is threatened by the plow, and some conflict emerges over saving the bodies from destruction.There¿s also some unorthodox craft in the telling of the story. Some of the chapters are in the first person viewpoint of the two principal characters. The rest of the chapters are in third person. An unusual technique, but not unheard of.I thought the novel, after the beginning, was going to be something along the line of the ¿Spoon River Anthology¿, since one of the characters is gifted at envisioning the dead - that might have been a very interesting method of telling the story - alternate chapters that deal with the present difficulties with chapters from the dead soldiers. Instead the novel drags in the middle - how many times can we revisit the same questions?
bookappeal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting story told in dense, descriptive style. Character-focused, somber tone, deliberate pace.
elsi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Though this was not my usual cup of tea, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Widow of the South. My usual problem when I read historical fiction that is about an actual person is that I will forever be confused as to which of what I read was fiction and which really happened.
sassafras on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Story of a woman who has suffered the loss of 3 children and has been mourning them for a long time. Then the Civil War comes to her town. Her home is converted into a Confederate hospital and caring for the wounded wakes her up out of her mourning. She sort of falls in love with one of the soldiers. Each chapter is told in the point of view of a different character. The story seemed long to me and not much happened.
homeschoolmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable book. I enjoyed going online afterwards and reading the real story of the 'Widow of the South'