I find myself often gravitating towards period/historical fiction, typically of the World War 1 or 2 eras. I picked this book because it was based in the American Civil War time frame; something different for me!
The main character and narrator of his story is Ash, a married woman with a farm in Indiana. (A fellow Midwesterner!) She is not very educated, both by her own admission, and as we are led to gather via her manner of speaking and delivery, which Mr. Hunt mimics in the writing.
Set as the Civil War is getting under way, we find out from Ash that in many ways, she wears the pants in her household. But we also learn that irrespective of that- and what those on the outside looking in might think- she has a deep and respectful love for her husband. He is just not as suited for the hardness of life in the way that Ash is so suited. And being a very pragmatic (very Midwestern/farmer trait, by the way) she has accepted it and adapted to it such that the pair are happy.
That is until Ash’s conscience begins to prick her. Her “Jiminy Cricket” finally drags her into the war in a way that history has shown us was more common than we’ll probably ever know; she dresses as a man and takes herself in to battle. I was worried that a man might not do this aspect of the story justice; I felt satisfied that in the end he had. (But I’d love to hear either your confirmations or dissent.)
It is said that in history, the victors tell the story. Certainly the ideas and philosophies of those who won the Civil War went on to help shape the course of our society. But it’s hard to say, both when one digs in to the actual history itself, as well as in Ash’s story, whether there was a lot to celebrate for the average American who lived during the time of this war, and in the years after it concluded, beyond philosophy and idea. It left almost no family untouched in mind, if not body, and there are many horrors that Ash relates to us that reveal why. As readers, we are sobered, even as we root for Ash to come out a victor on the other side. Perhaps because we all hope that convictions and “doing the right thing” will win in the end?
I enjoyed this story, with the exception of the ending. To discuss this aspect further would be to give the game away. But perhaps it’s an ending that illustrates my earlier point; nothing is wholly untouched when a violence of such a scale is unleashed.
Will our convictions comfort us in the end? Do they comfort Ash and the many men and women who fought alongside her? And even if they offer little personal comfort, does the tide of history and change assuage (and justify) all the “war wounds” in the end?
Read the book and let me know what your thoughts are, dear readers!
Want to read more about women like Ash? Check out this resource here.