Title: The Widow of the South
Publisher: Warner Books, New York
Publication Date: 2005
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Signed: Signed by Author
Edition: First Edition.
Fine Fine unread copy protected by Archival Brodart Cover. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 001155
Synopsis: Reminiscent of Cold Mountain and Enemy Women, this is a gripping novel based on the incredible true story of a woman whose life was changed forever by the Civil War.In 1894 Carrie McGavock is an old woman, an old woman who has only her former slave to keep her company...along with the almost 1,500 soldiers buried in her backyard. Years ago, rather than let someone plow over the field where these young men had been buried, Carrie dug them up and buried them in her own personal cemetery. Now, as she walks the rows of the dead, an old soldier appears. It is the man she met that day of the battle that changed everything. The man who came to her house as a wounded soldier and left with her heart. He asks if the cemetery has room for one more.Flash back 30 years to the morning of the Battle of Franklin, a battle that was the bloodiest five hours of the Civil War, with 9,200 casualties that fateful day. Carrie+s home-Carnton Plantation-was taken over by the Confederate army and turned into a hospital; four generals died on her porch, and the pile of amputated limbs reached the second story window. And one soldier came to her house and reawakened in Carrie feelings she thought long dead. Zacharaiah Cashwell was a 32-year-old soldier who had lived a hardscrabble life. When Cashwell, wounded, was brought to her home, Carrie found herself inexplicably drawn to him despite boundaries of class and decorum. The story that ensues between Carrie and Cashwell is just as unforgettable as the battle from which it is drawn.n Carrie McGavock was famous throughout the country as the -Widow of the South+ and the -Keeper of the Dead.+ She spent over 40 years tending the graves of the soldiers and corresponding with their families. Up until now, her story has never been written.n Civil War history buffs will be drawn in by the true-life history that Hicks talks about in the special author+s note section that includes photographs of the real life characters.n The book will be exquisitly packaged with endpapers, interior photographs, and rough front. n Robert Hicks has been active in the music industry in Nashville for 20 years as both a music publisher and artist manager. The driving force behind the preservation and restoration of the historic Carnton Plantation in Tennessee, he stumbled upon the extraordinary role that Carrie McGavock played in and after the Battle of Franklin. This is his first novel.n Robert Hicks lives in Tennessee.
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
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