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The Rebel Wife: A Novel Hardcover – February 7, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Book Club (BCE/BOMC edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451629516
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451629514
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,030,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When her husband dies of a disturbing blood fever, Augusta Branson escapes the strict bonds of marriage in the Reconstruction-era South only to find herself trapped by unexpected debt. Her uncle steps in to care for her but becomes frustratingly, then disturbingly controlling and mysteriously hostile. As Augusta awakens to the political and racial tension around her, she realizes that she is caught up in an unexpectedly complicated web. Her husband’s political machinations put her in danger even after his death, and a plague-time anxiety begins to take over the town, furthering her desperation and creeping terror. Staying in her socially acceptable place may be the most dangerous thing she can do, but breaking free in an atmosphere of mind-numbing heat and simmering fear isn’t easy. Gothically atmospheric to the teeth, this ominous tale also smartly derives much of its tension from the sinister social and political realities of postwar Southern society. The suspense is exquisitely honed, verging on overdone but pulled back just in time to make for a wonderfully chilling—yet overheated—read. --Meg Kinney

Review

“This engrossing novel about a resilient heroine in the post-Civil War South has all the drama of the era and none of the clichés.”O, The Oprah Magazine

"This is a wonderful first novel—passionate and brave. It removes the skin of an era, and questions so many of the tropes that hover around 19th century southern American literature. It was Faulkner who, in the 20th century, talked about the voice of fiction being inexhaustible. Taylor Polites has extended our narrative reach into yet another time. A fascinating, genre-subverting historical novel. "—Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin

“The best historical novel is the one we forget is a historical novel . . . Taylor M. Polites pulls off just such sleight of hand in his gloriously gothic, moody post-Civil War novel, The Rebel Wife . . . an expertly packaged history lesson about the massive social and economic upheaval that was Reconstruction, where fortunes changed hands, the word 'freedom' lost its meaning, and Yankees weren’t the only enemies of 'the sons and daughters of the defeated South.' . . . [S]plendidly researched . . . The Rebel Wife offers a valuable new perspective.”—Atlanta Journal-Constitution


“History with a heartbeat, lovingly described and yet a true page turner.”Providence Journal


“Lithe, sophisticated . . . Highly stylized, this quick-moving, tautly crafted Southern Gothic begins to redefine the up-until-now unrelenting archetypes of Southern gentlemen, Southern belles and the Southern slaves who waited on them . . . effortlessly detailed.”Charleston Post and Courier

“[The Rebel Wife] shatters the myths that still cling to the antebellum South and creates an unforgettable heroine.”Mobile Register

“Vivid and beautiful . . . action-packed . . . An ambitious novel, one that hinges on research, insight, and decency.” The Virginian-Pilot

“Multi-layered and rich with historic detail. Refracted through the prism of one very determined woman, this gripping suspense story is about nothing less than complicated truths and harsh realities.”—TucsonCitizen.com

“A richly detailed portrait of Reconstruction-era Alabama. . . . Nimble, engrossing . . . builds to a vivid climax.”Publishers Weekly


“The suspense is exquisitely honed . . . pulled back just in time to make for a wonderfully chilling—yet over-heated—read.”Booklist

“Polites draws a detailed portrait of post-war politics and sentiments.”Kirkus Reviews

“The aftermath of the Civil War—specifically, the Reconstruction era in Alabama—comes to vivid life in Taylor M. Polites’ debut novel, which dispels some of the myths associated with that period of our history . . . Polites has peopled his well-researched account with an intriguing cast of characters, each of whom contributes to Gus’ awakening to the postwar realities she now must face alone . . . Polites’ debut is a historically accurate and compelling depiction of the postwar South, in all its divisiveness and discord.”Book Page

“Taylor Polites's The Rebel Wife is the love child of William Faulkner and Margaret Mitchell, and sister to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's ’Yellow Wallpaper.’ A gripping look at Reconstruction-era Alabama through the mind of one flawed, desperate woman.”—Lenore Hart, author of The Raven’s Bride and Becky

"The Rebel Wife takes us to the time when one who suffered through the Civil War was left to sort through the debris in order to start again. This story hums with suspense. More great discussion for the book clubs!"—Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House

"Taylor Polites' extraordinary novel has all the qualities of a Southern Gothic but is so very much more. This brilliant new writer has taken an age-old genre and turned it on its head…In a nail-biting tour de force, Taylor Polites has brought the 1870's to life before our eyes with impeccable research and attention to detail. This is a book that exposes ancient myths, and will endure and be talked about for years to come."—Kaylie Jones, author of Lies My Mother Never Told Me

"The Rebel Wife bears comparison with Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner's prose, with the exception that Polites cherishes few illusions about Lost Causes. The failure of Reconstruction meant the deferral of full rights for the former slaves for a full century. This stunning debut novel looks without flinching at one of the enduring shames of our American history, in prose that will linger long after you close its pages."—David Poyer, author of That Anvil of Our Souls and The Towers

"Peeling back layers of deceit and myth combined, Taylor Polites takes us into an era we barely understand. The flawed human heart that finally comes to understand 'the truth' is at the heart of this enduring, suspenseful novel."—Patti Callahan Henry, author of Coming Up for Air

More About the Author

Taylor M. Polites' first novel, The Rebel Wife, was published by Simon & Schuster in February 2012. It was featured as a top ten pick in the February 2012 issue of O Magazine, the Oprah magazine, and was an Okra Pick from the Southern Independent Booksellers Association. His work has appeared in the anthologies Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting (W.W. Norton, November 2013) and the upcoming Providence Noir (Akashic Books) as well as in local and regional arts and news publications including Provincetown Arts, artscope, and the Cape Codder. He graduated from the Wilkes University MFA in Creative Writing program in June 2010, where he was awarded the Norris Church Mailer Fellowship. He teaches in the Wilkes University Creative Writing MFA program, at Roger Williams University and the Rhode Island School of Design. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his small Chihuahua Clovis.

Customer Reviews

I really enjoyed it and found it very interesting.
Firefly
Particularly irritating is his use of very short sentences (almost dumb sounding) and scattered thought patterns to indicate 'reality.'
Sandi Kay Wheatley
I hope there will be a sequel to Augusta's story, and we can see where her discoveries lead her.
C.C. Ansardi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Redbrarian on February 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In his debut novel, Taylor Polites spins a page-turning story of desperation and transformation, set during the unstable Reconstruction Era. Polites' attraction to both historical research and eerie Gothic motifs -terror, darkness, miasma, attraction, and deception- led him to craft something original, a subtle mystery that took me by surprise. I would recommend reading it on a hot summer night, if you can wait that long.

At its core, the plot is propelled by fraught obsession, as the widowed heroine of The Rebel Wife, Augusta, relentlessly struggles to hold-tight to what is hers. Augusta's anxiety is more than warranted, in a time and place when single women had limited control of their income, kin, and even their households. Fans of Jean Rhys, Daphne du Maurier (My Cousin Rachel) and Maggie O'Farrell (My Lover's Lover, After You'd Gone) will appreciate Augusta's unrelenting mind, along with the sticky pace at which Polites' brings her closer to her elusive objective, which may or may not exist. That's all I'll say about the plot; I despise spoilers!

I loved this book, though I don't often read historical fiction. Polites ends his novel with an impressive bibliography -- full of history monographs you that you read in grad school. Despite his academic research, the novel is not an event-driven story of war and disease. This book is character driven. Any research conducted by Polites influenced details of setting, behavior, dialogue, and dress. Thank you, Taylor Polites, for avoiding battle scenes, and all of their tedious details.

I look forward to reading future works by this promising new novelist!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By The Bookish Dame on March 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"The Rebel Wife" is an easily entertaining, enjoyable book, and I think many have forgotten that that's important any time we assess the value of literature; it is this singular reason we read at all. Without this primary component, no one would read. If a book cannot entertain, cause us to become "lost in it," in its "other world" liness,then it can't be called a "good book." As reviewers we sometimes forget this important factor, as it pales in comparison to our vain attempts at flowery and intelligent-groping descriptions... I'm happy to report this is a very good book.

I'm a Southern girl, born and bred, read all the books that Taylor mentions, did similar research, belonged to historical restoration foundations, you name it... I've had a bone-bred love of all things that made and still make the South what it is. My family's blood was spilled to build up and tear down and rebuild both the North and the South for many generations. I understand Mr. Polites heart and a bit of his soul in this book, I believe.

His cadence touches my heart. I hear it in his writing. The songs of the South...the speech... I hear and see the familiar peoples. My mind can see the church people, the hymns being hummed, the boy in the black suit ringing the bell down the dusty street proclaiming the death of Mr. Eli; it's in my blood. I can feel the heat of a summer day when the ice melts on your sweet tea before you can taste it. And I know the condescension of Southern men; particularly toward unprotected and unmarried women. I recognize the prejudices and the powers of those who seem to be the powerless. It delights my heart to read about strong women who overcome.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Chris Finklein VINE VOICE on December 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My certain depictions of the Civil War era radiates from 'Gone With the Wind.' There have not been many novels or even short stories written about what it must have been like to survive those years following the horrors that ripped our country apart in the early 1860's. Other than nonfiction history books accounting the economic hardships and some of the reconstruction involved in putting the ravaged south back together there has been little written about what it must have been like to live in the after effects of emancipation of the black man and the attempts for women to exist in an era where men ruled everything unconditionally.

This is an intriguing story about a woman who tries to piece her life back together following the unexpected death of her husband. Prior to his passing she occupied herself with the inane comings and goings of most southern women who lived lives void of any controversy other than what to wear to the latest social occasion. Obviously money is the essential ingredient in minimal supply and there are various details reflecting questionable activities surrounding investors, negroes, attempts at civil rights and other contrary behaviors not deemed acceptable by southern gentlemen. Trying to unravel the puzzles of where the money really is, who is telling the truth and all the mixed messages pelting her left and right Gus makes every effort to sort thru the mess and reach a solid understanding. Between the confines of men demanding they have the answers, old vibes from a suitor she could have married and the struggles with her house help who are determined to move out of the area in order to survive, Gus is layered in emotions, questions and the infernel heat.
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