From Publishers Weekly
A middle-aged salesman in 1885 Mississippi, Cass Wakefield is a Civil War veteran of the Army of Tennessee, which saw action far from the leadership of Robert E. Lee, and ended, badly, at the battle of Franklin in 1864. Cass agrees to accompany a neighbor, 54-year-old terminally ill widow Alison Sansing, to Tennessee to recover the bodies of her father and brother, killed at Franklin. As they travel north, Cass's memories return with painful vividness, culminating as he walks over the scene of his army's disastrous defeat. Bahr (The Black Flower) moves back and forth between the tattered post-Reconstruction South and the war. He describes the effect of weapons on flesh in gruesome detail and brings to life a long-gone era with its strange smells, foods, fashions and principles. Though his uneducated characters often seem a little too articulate, their insights are excellent. Author of other well-regarded novels on the same period, Bahr treats the war as a natural disaster not unlike a hurricane. (Aug.)
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In his third Civil War novel (after the highly praised The Black Flower, 1997, and Year of Jubilo, 2000), Bahr focuses not only on the carnage of battle but its horrible aftermath. Twenty years after the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, in which more than 70 percent of the estimated 8,500-plus casualties were Confederate, Alison Sansing of Cumberland, Mississippi, who's dying of cancer, asks her friend Cass Wakefield, a survivor of the conflict, to help her bring home the remains of her father and brother, who died there. Although reluctant to return to Franklin, Cass refuses the help of fellow veterans--Roger Lewellyn, his "pard," and Lucian Wakefield, a 13-year-old orphan conscript--but both show up at the battlefield, where an encounter with a crazed old man leads to tragedy. Bahr masterfully portrays ordinary men called to war whose belief in courage, honor, pride, and comrades sustains them but leaves them empty but for their terrible memories and grief. A beautifully written portrayal of the price that war exacts. Michele Leber
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