A beautiful novel. Robert Hicks captured the confused emotions of a woman forced to face the real world for the first time. As a proper southern lady of a plantation, Carrie McGavock only left her husband’s plantation to visit other plantations. She knew almost nothing of the rest of the world. She withdrew into herself when three of her young children died.
In December, 1864, a major battle swept past the McGavock plantation house and on into Franklin, Tennessee, leaving more than 9,000 dead and wounded for the small town of 2,500 to care for. The McGavock’s large plantation home became a hospital and Carrie became a nurse. She and her personal slave, Mariah, cared for hundreds of mangled men, many of whom died. That much is fact.
In the novel, Carrie gravitates toward an Arkansas sargent whose leg required amputation. They form a bond based on his anger with her for forcing the surgeons to cut off his leg to save his life and her anger with him for forcing her to face the real world. They perform a long dance which neither can ignore or disengage until they both admit that they are in love.
But this is not a romance novel. Carrie’s husband knows of their relationship and approves of it because it gives his wife back as a whole person. She works through her grief by helping many men die and others live.
Today, you can visit the Franklin battlefield, as well as the McGavock house, but most importantly, you can visit the cemetery for nearly 1,500 confederate soldiers that Carrie McGavock insisted on establishing in her backyard.
This powerful story will run through my mind for some time to come. Five stars.