I do not have time to read, but the books just keep getting stuck to my face. UF, HF, YA, fluffy romance, whatever. I love it all.
But I might judge you if you hand out five stars all willy nilly.
I have always had a fascination with the Civil War and pre-20th century America. It's hard to imagine that just 160 years ago, a horrifically bloody and devastating war tore through this country and caused fellow Americans to massacre one another. It was a brutal time in history and I have read many books examining it from different points of view.
Yet in all the books I previously read, I never learned that there were women on both sides of the war who disguised themselves and fought alongside their men: fought alongside their husbands, their brothers, their fathers, their fiances. Over 200 of them are known to have infiltrated the ranks, and this book is a fictional account of what it would have been like to be one of them.
Young Rosetta Wakefield has just married her sweetheart Jeremiah, with whom she has big plans to head west to Nebraska and have their own farm. They were young and in love and the sweetness of their wedding and honeymoon felt so authentic, it made me long for simpler times. Shortly after their wedding, though, Rosetta wakes to find a letter from her husband informing her he has gone to join the Union army. He is certain that he will only have to serve for a few months and then will be back home with enough money to fund their dream.
Rosetta is understandably heartbroken and angry to be left behind at her in-laws farm, and she is lonely and afraid for her husband. A series of events pushes Rosetta to lop off her hair, don men's clothing, and make the daring decision to follow Jeremiah. She successfully enlists and becomes a soldier, taking on the name of Ross Stone, and there the adventure begins.
There were many things in this book that were beautifully done. The dialogue rang true and the culture and landscape of the 1800's really came to life in the capable hands of Erin Lindsay McCabe. The prose wasn't overly flowery or purple, yet every once in a while a line would be so perfectly worded I would have to read it two or three times just to let it soak in.
"Jeremiah is like cloth that has been washed to a softness, where James and Jesse are stiff and dark like fabric fresh off the bolt.
Through Rosetta's eyes we experience what it would be like to march with the Union army: the long periods of waiting followed by bursts of intense action, the pain of losing friends along the way, the grief and confusion of fighting men who don't seem that different from you.
Something heavy settles into my belly when the stain blooms on that soldier's chest, the hole in the line, the tear in the fabric of some other family.
McCabe made me smell the smoke and feel the clods of dirt raining down and really brought the tragic sadness of the battle to life.
The cries of wounded men pierce through everything else and then, from behind that embankment, the shriek of the dead comes, a sound that is wolf howl and rabbit scream mixed together, raising gooseflesh on my arms, coming, coming not twenty yards away and they are coming and everything inside me goes to pounding and shaking.
Perhaps because the writing was so good and because it delivered what the synopsis promised, telling the story of a woman soldier in the civil war, that I have a hard time really critiquing the book itself. I can admire this book for what it contributes to the historical fiction genre, bringing a unique perspective to this time in history, but I still don't know that I particularly care for the story itself.
It is based on true events, so I can't really hold the author responsible for Rosetta's decisions, though I frequently disagreed with them. I understood not wanting to be left behind and wanting to be near her husband, but there came a part in the story where I had more empathy and sadness for Jeremiah. He was not only burdened with the horror of war, but also with the fear of having his wife there with him and trying to keep her secret and safe, which was a fairly impossible task. This made it hard for me to sympathize with Rosetta's reasons for being there.
I also struggled with the turn that Will's character took in the latter part of the book. Since he was purely fictional I feel more comfortable voicing my complaints about him.
Anyways, this was an interesting story with solid writing and I think that it's going to appeal to people who would like to know more about this time in history. It had some cameo appearances from other well-known Civil War women, such as Rebel Rose and Clara Barton, and it did manage to make me cry, so I cannot claim I was unaffected. I did have to press through some boggy parts where I felt distracted and lost interest, but I think that with the right reader this book will really shine.