Setting: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and St. Helena Island, South Carolina
While Liberty’s future crumbles as her home is destroyed, the past comes rushing back to Bella, a former slave and Liberty’s hired help, when she finds herself surrounded by Southern soldiers, one of whom knows the secret that would place Liberty in danger if revealed.
In the wake of shattered homes and bodies, Liberty and Bella struggle to pick up the pieces the battle has left behind. Will Liberty be defined by the tragedy in her life, or will she find a way to triumph over it?
Widow of Gettysburg is inspired by first-person accounts from women who lived in Gettysburg during the battle and its aftermath.
Review: I was excited to have the opportunity to review Widow of Gettysburg first of all because I truly enjoy learning about our history. Secondly, I'm a North Carolinian from the city of Wilmington. The whole of North Carolina and especially Wilmington is steeped in history from the early days of this country's being settled, through the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II. So a novel truly researched and rich in Civil War history intrigued me. I was not disappointed in my reading of Widow of Gettysburg by Jocelyn Green. The research seems top grade and the book is complete with a short essay on the history of the period, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and also a bibliography of works to which she referred.
The story spans a few months in 1863 and begins just a few days before the battle. The small village or town of Gettysburg was home to just over 2,000. To have an influx of over 20,000 overtaxed the people, the food supply, and the sanitary conditions to the max. The author takes you across fields and hills with both sides in the conflict and brings into the reading generals, aids, and soldiers in turmoil, hunger, and pain. Though the story exists because of the Battle of Gettysburg and how it impacted the outcome of the Civil War, that is not the main story being told here. This story is of the women who lived it and survived it. It is the story of free blacks and whites living and working along side each other. It is a story of heroic preportions of how these women worked and slaved to survive and to help the wounded.
The story is also strongly supportive of the Union and anti-slavery. The picture of slavery and mistreatment of the slaves, particularly women, and how women were abused by their owners, overseers, and plantation mistresses is plainly presented. Horrible it was. And thankfully that period of our history has ended. I would, however, have appreciated even a small mention of the slave holders who were kind and caring for the slaves they owned. Also, for the fact that all Southerners were not in favor of slavery. But that was not told in this story.
Especially compelling in the book: The scene where Liberty and Bella, a former slave and now free black who is an employee of Liberty's are rescuing a large number of injured confederate soldiers who were left in a building basement that has flooded threatening to drown the wounded is dramatically written. These two women picked up each man and carried them on a stretcher up 60 plus steps to higher ground. Each man's rescue required a trip up and a trip down the stairs. The water through which they waded was filled with vermin. Their dresses clung to their bodies. But they did it. It was heroic. Keep in mind that they have had almost no food to eat during this period of time. It has all been stolen or conscripted by the armies.
This historical fiction is a very good read and one that I highly recommend to anyone who wishes to learn more about that period of American history and the plight of the women during the war. Also, I appreciate Liberty's dependence on Scripture, especially the Psalms, by Liberty to get through the particularly difficult times.
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary review copy by River North Fiction a division of Moody Publishers for the purpose of rendering an honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation to write this review.