Wednesday, March 4, 2015

This Side of the River by Jeffrey Stayton

"We chose him. We needed a champion in the plague year 1865. And since all the good Georgia men were either too dead or shattered beyond recognition, we chose a Texas Ranger no older than myself to lead us orth to Ohio--to burn that blackguard Sherman's home to ashes." Opening Sentences  

At the end of the Civil War, a group of young, angry Confederate widows band together, take up arms, and march north to Ohio intent to burn down the home of General William Tecumseh Sherman. 

Review by Mirella Patzer

Near the end of thre American Civil War, many women are left widowed and in poverty. Filled with rage and a burning need for revenge, a group of Confederate widows form their own small army determined to kill General Sherman. The man leading them is named Captain Cat Harvey. Although he is no more than 19 years old, he is suffering from "nostalgia" or "soldier's heart". Today we call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At first, the widows are happy to have him as their leader, but as they become aware of just how deeply disturbed he really is, many begin to have second thoughts and try to leave. Deserters in this surreal women's army are hung or shot. What unfolds is a dark story of death, abuse, madness, murder, forced sex, and hatred. 

The writing is very unique and will require some focus as it is written in the southern American vernacular. The tale unfolds through the point of view of a handful of characters, all of which are very intriguing. This is a profound tale with many underlying themes, some dark and depressing, others about hope and reconciliation. The author did a brilliant job of delving deep into the human psyche to explore the fragility of the human mind and how it can break after having participated in war. A theme prevalent in today's society. I recommend this book very much. It's not very long, and is a bit challenging to read, and if you can handle a bit of violence and abuse, it is worth reading to get a clear understanding of the aftermath of war.

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