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The Widow of the South Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 2009

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446558885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446558884
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (262 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #787,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

In an Author's Note at the end of his book The Widow of the South, Robert Hicks tells us that "when Oscar Wilde made his infamous tour of America in 1882, he told his hosts that his itinerary should include a visit to 'sunny Tennessee to meet the Widow McGavock, the high priestess of the temple of dead boys.'" Carrie McGavock, The Widow of the South, did indeed take it upon herself to grieve the loss of so many young men in the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, which took place on November 30, 1864. Nine thousand men lost their lives that day. She and her husband John eventually re-buried on their own land 1,481 Confederate soldiers killed at Franklin, when the family that owned the land on which the original shallow graves had been dug decided to plow it under and put it into cultivation.

Before the battle begins, Carrie's house is commandeered for a field hospital and all normal life is suspended. Carrie is anything but normal, however. She has buried three children, has two living children she pays little attention to, has turned the running of the house over to her slave, Mariah, and spends her time dressed in black walking around in the dark or lying down lamenting her loss. She is a morbid figure from the outset but becomes less so as the novel progresses. The death going on all around her shakes her out of her torpor, but death is definitely her comfort zone.

One of the soldiers who is treated at the house is Zachariah Cashwell, who loses his leg when Carrie sends him to surgery rather than watch him die. They are inextricably bound in some kind of a spiritual dance from then on. Their reasons for being drawn to each other are inexplicable, apparently, because they remain unexplained, and when Cashwell tells Carrie he loves her, she beats him nearly to death because she loves him too. At least, that is the reason Hicks gives. He violates that first caveat given to all writers: "show us, don't tell us." There is doubtless something deeply flawed in Carrie and screamingly symbolic about her behavior; it is surely elusive. Too bad, because Carrie was a real person whom Hicks lauds for her compassion and ability to grieve without end. Then, he throws in this gratuitous "love story" and confuses the issue. Carrie's relationship with her husband and children remains unexamined. Hicks is better at describing death and "the stink of war" than he is at life. If you read War and Peace and loved all the war parts and were bored senseless by the peace parts, this is your cup of tea. --Valerie Ryan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The grand scale of drama in this Civil War novel that recreates the life of Carrie McGavock, whose Tennessee home became a Confederate hospital and who later tended a massive cemetery in her backyard, feels ready-made for the movies and hearing it read aloud makes that feeling even stronger. The music that swells up under the tense and emotional parts is sometimes a little overblown or sentimental, but it captures the mood and enhances the listening experience. The readers (including Becky Ann Baker, Tom Wopat, David Chandler and Jonathan Davis) use Southern accents strong enough to be authentic but not too thick to be comical. Characters are not read exclusively by one person, and the men are less successful at getting the right tone for the female parts than Baker is when she reads men's parts. Her smart Southern belle voice for Carrie changes wonderfully into a gruff, bitter one to embody Zachariah Cashwell, a Confederate soldier Carrie falls in love with as she nurses him back to health. Extra tracks on the final disc includes an interview with Hicks on his inspiration and writing process; a computer program containing photos, artwork and archival material Hicks used; and an author's note that fills out more of the actual history. Even without accessing these enhancements, though, one quickly gets caught up listening to this sweeping novel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

I was born and raised in South FLorida. In 1974 I moved to Williamson County, TN (; in 1979 I moved to 'Labor in Vain,' a late-eighteenth-century log cabin, near Leiper's Fork, TN.

WOrking both as a music publisher and in artist management in both country and rock music, my interests remain broad and varied. A partner in BB King's Blues Clubs ( in Nashville, Memphis and Los Angeles, I serve as 'Curator of Vibe' of the corporation.

A lifelong collector, I was teh first Tennesseean to be listed among Arts & Antiquities' Top 100 Collectors in America - my collection focuses on Outsider Art, Tennesseana, and Southern Material Culture. I served as co-curator (with Ben Caldwell and Mark Scala) on the exhibition, Ar of Tennessee, at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville. The exhibition was a seven year endeavor from conception at my kitchen table to its opening, September 2003. I was co-editor of the exhibition's award-winning catalog, Art of Tennessee (UT Press, 2003).

In the field of historic preservation, I've served on the Boards of Historic Carnton Plantation (, the Tennessee State Museum, The Williamson County Historical Society, and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts ( In December 1997, after a third term as president of the Carnton board, and in light of my years of service to Carnton, I was named by board resolution: "the driving force in the restoration and preservation of Historic Carnton Plantation."

For the past two years, I've headed up Franklin's Charge: A Vision and Campaign for the Preservation of Historic Open Space ( in the fight to secure and preserve both battlefield and other historic open space in Williamson County. Franlin's Charge has taken on the massive mission of saving what remains of the eastern flank of the battlefield at Franklin - the largest remaining undeveloped fragment of the battlefield - and turning it into a public battlefield park which will eventually run from the Lotz and Carter Houses ( to Ft. Granger and Carnton Plantation, with significant holdings around Breezy and Winstead Hills. (

THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH was born out of my many years of work at Carnton and my passion for the preservation of the remaining fragments of the battlefield. In writing the novel, my hope was to bring national attention back to this moment in our nation's history, the impact those five bloody hours played in making us a nation, and in the preservation of the sites tied to the story.

As a writer, my essays on regional history, southern material culture, and music have appeared in numerous publications over the years. I'm now hard at work on my next novel.

In my spare time, I like to garden - even though, in truth, I know I should be jogging.

Customer Reviews

If you want to feel the heart ache, and "see" Tennessee, this book will be a very good choice.
Although Carrie is the unquestionable center of the novel, I found the supporting characters just as compelling and fully developed.
Based on historical fact, the author weaves in a love story to express feelings of the characters and it works extremely well.
Herbert W. Pangle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A. Owen on August 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The `Widow of the South' will bring Carrie McGavock's story to people who have never heard of this remarkable person. As a young, high spirited woman, she sat for a portrait wearing black, certainly not the done thing at the time. Ironically, black becomes the color of her life. She knows firsthand the loss of three beloved children and treats all the dead boys from the battle that raged outside her home as if they were her own.

One of the most touching parts of the book is the true story about a Georgia family who traveled to Tennessee to bring their dead son home from Carrie's cemetery. After seeing how she lovingly cared for him, they decided to leave him in Tennessee returning only to bring Georgia dirt from their farm for his resting place.

One read of this book is not enough.
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59 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Tamela Mccann TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This novel's premise intrigued me because I live close to Franklin, Tennessee, and have learned a good deal about the Battle of Franklin in recent years. McGavock is a well-known name around Nashville, which added to my interest. I eagerly picked this book up and dived in, prepared to meet the main characters and learn more about the battle and its aftermath, and previous reviews made the book that much more appealing. However, as I read, I found myself disappointed in the actual retelling of the battle itself; I was hoping for more action and deeper characterizations. The plot meanders between points of view and Carrie McGavock's motivations are particularly difficult to understand. On a personal level, I could delve into her darkness of depression over the loss of her children, but since it was a common occurrence in the mid 1800s, I found it a bit over-the-top. Her feelings for Zachariah are not in character and are never believable. Mariah is a strong character who never achieves her own voice and a few of the side stories seem forced as well. The novel finally achieves its goals in the last 100 pages as the focus for Carrie becomes clear and her determination shows. Hicks has a wonderful way with words but he needs to show the why of his characters rather than letting them stew in their own juices for much of the story. Overall this is a good book, but not as compelling as I'd hoped.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A. Drescher on September 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In 1991, after nine years in the Marine Corps, I settled in Franklin, Tennesee, the setting for Widow of the South. I had the privilege of meeting the man to whom Robert Hicks dedicated his novel, Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and Williamson County resident, Tom Martin, Jr. Mr. Martin was wounded in combat and confined to a wheelchair. Despite his condition, he looked surprisingly fit. Sad to say, like so many before and since, Mr. Martin died an untimely death just a few years ago. I've visited the Carter House, and the museum there, along with the Carnton cemetary with its 1481 Confederate graves. Mr. Hicks is a talented writer. Toward the end of his narrative, he makes rather obvious but important references to remembering the thousands who fell (on both sides). The battlefield in Franklin is notorious for its LACK of preservation. By bringing the story of the battle and Carrie McGavock to life, he does a great service to us, the living. I found the narratives of Sgt. Cashwell to be particularly well written and moving. Surely many who made that fateful charge on November 30, 1864 knew they were going to die. Sgt. Cashwell ruminates about facing death and overcomes his fear by embracing it. Over 9,000 Americans died in five hours, most in the first forty minutes. Carrie McGavock honored the dead by caring for their earthly remains. We should thank her and Robert Hicks for reminding us that it is our solemn obligation to do likewise. It has been predicted that this novel will bring more visitors to the battlefield and to Carnton. I know I will be going back--with a deeper and richer appreciation for what transpired in those five tragic hours. Widow of the South is an important book about important events.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. Voyce on September 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful and extremely well written story. It is about real people who behave like real people. I particularly appreciated the relationship between Carrie and John McGavock. Theirs is a long term marriage which survived, not a fairy tale. The marriage had its ups and downs as do all. But "lust in ones heart" is benign. John appears as a man, not a typical fictional husband and that is refreshing.

The build-up to the battle, particularly that going on in the minds of the soldiers, is believable and thought provoking. For those of us who have never been in the military, it suggests how men (and today women) can anticipate such a horrendous situation.

I loved "The Widow of the South!"
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103 of 129 people found the following review helpful By B. Merritt VINE VOICE on August 31, 2005
Format: Audio CD
It is November 30th, 1864, and Carrie McGavick's Franklin, Tennessee plantation home is in a terrible spot. The Confederates and Unionists are about to have a major battle engagement only a mile from Mrs. McGavick's house, and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest has commandeered her home as a field hospital.

Mrs. McGavick - later to become known as THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH - is in mourning over the death of three of her children during a typhoid epidemic. And she spends most of her time in bed letting Mariah, a Creole slave, run the household. But the days of mourning her children come to an abrupt end as she must come to grips with the death of 9,000 soldiers in a single day, and care for the wounded whom blanket every square inch of her floors.

One of the injured is a tough and vocal man named Zachariah Cashwell, a Confederate nobody. During the day's bloodshed, Mr. Cashwell did an incredibly brave, heroic, stupid, and suicidal thing: After the color-bearer is killed, he picks up the flag and marches toward the enemy as they shoot at him. But he doesn't receive a scratch. Only after being captured and attempting to escape is he given a near mortal wound from a gunshot. Then he's taken to Mrs. McGavick's field hospital to recover or die. Here the two (McGavick and Cashwell) meet and clash ...and eventually fall in love, even after Mr. Cashwell's leg is amputated. Even though Carrie McGavick is married.

What follows is a denying of love, a race to save the graves of those who are buried outside of the McGavick home, and a woman who discovers her purpose in life: to honor the memory of those "boys" who died that day.


This is Mr.
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