The title character of this haunting historical novel is Carrie McGavock, whose farmhouse was commandeered as a Confederate field hospital before the tragic battle at Franklin, Tennessee, in November 1864. That day, 9,000 soldiers perished. This tragic event turned McGavock into "the widow of the South." She spent the rest of her life mourning those lost, eventually reburying nearly 1,500 of them on her property. Robert Hicks's first historical novel captures the life-altering force that war exerts even on noncombatants.
… Carrie McGavock's convoluted internal monologues about why she feels impelled to rescue the wounded and bury the dead halt the narrative in its tracks. Better to stick with Cashwell; he alone is worth the read. I'd follow him anywhere, wooden leg and all.
3 The Washington Post
Hicks's big historical first novel, based on true events in his hometown, follows the saga of Carrie McGavock, a lonely Confederate wife who finds purpose transforming her Tennessee plantation into a hospital and cemetery during the Civil War. Carrie is mourning the death of several of her children, and, in the absence of her husband, has left the care of her house to her capable Creole slave Mariah. Before the 1864 battle of Franklin, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest commandeers her house as a field hospital. In alternating points of view, the battle is recounted by different witnesses, including Union Lt. Nathan Stiles, who watches waves of rebels shot dead, and Confederate Sgt. Zachariah Cashwell, who loses a leg. By the end of the battle, 9,000 soldiers have perished, and thousands of Confederates are buried in a field near the McGavock plantation. Zachariah ends up in Carrie's care at the makeshift hospital, and their rather chaste love forms the emotional pulse of the novel, while Carrie fights to relocate the buried soldiers when her wealthy neighbor threatens to plow up the field after the war. Valiantly, Hicks returns to small, human stories in the midst of an epic catastrophe. Though occasionally overwrought, this impressively researched novel will fascinate aficionados. Agent, Jeff Kleinman. Major ad/promo, 15-city publicity tour. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
John McGavock, the husband of our eponymous heroine, isn't even dead when she begins wearing black, but the mantle of mourning seems to fit Carrie McGavock. Having lost three young children, it is perhaps appropriate that she becomes the caretaker of over 1500 Confederate dead, all killed at the Battle of Franklin, TN, in 1864. Based on a true story, music publisher Hicks's first novel brings the reader onto the battlefield and into the lives of its survivors, including Zachariah Cashwell, an Arkansas soldier whose presence at the makeshift hospital established in the McGavock home shakes Carrie out of her stupor: "I had discovered why I had been drawn to him," she says. "He is a living thing, not a dying one." And it is life, after all, that drives Hicks's story. We know from the outset about Carrie's cemetery, but her journey to that place is compellingly told. Highly recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/05.]-Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A thunderous, action-rich first novel of the Civil War, based on historical fact. Music publisher Hicks treats a long-overlooked episode of the war in this account of the Battle of Franklin, Tenn., which took place in November 1864 near Nashville. As a field hospital is pitched in her field, Carrie McGavock, an iron-spined farm woman and upstanding citizen of the town, takes it upon herself to tend after the Confederate wounded; later, she and her husband will rebury 1,500 of the fallen on their property. Hicks centers much of the story on Carrie, who has seen her own children die of illness and who has endurance in her blood. "I was not a morbid woman," Carrie allows, "but if death wanted to confront me, well, I would not turn my head. Say what you have to say to me, or leave me alone." Other figures speak their turn. One is a young Union officer amazed at the brutal and sometimes weird tableaux that unfold before him; as the bullets fly, he pauses before a 12-year-old rebel boy suffocating under the weight of his piled-up dead comrades. "Suffocated. I had never considered the possibility," young Lt. Stiles sighs. Another is an Arkansas soldier taken prisoner by the Yankees: "I became a prisoner and accepted all the duties of a prisoner just as easily as I'd picked up the damned colors and walked forward to the bulwarks." Yet another is Nathan Forrest, who would strike fear in many a heart as a Confederate cavalryman, and later as the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. Hicks renders each of these figures with much attention to historical detail and a refreshing lack of genre cliche, closing with a subtle lament for the destruction of history before the bulldozer: "One longs to know that somethings don't change, that some of us will not be forgotten, that our perambulations upon the earth are not without point or destination."An impressive addition to the library of historical fiction on the Civil War, worthy of a place alongside The Killer Angels, Rifles for Watie and Shiloh. First printing of 75,000