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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Robert Hicks has been active in the music industry in Nashville for twenty years as both a music publisher and artist manager. The driving force behind the perservation and restoration of the historic Carnton plantation in Tennessee, he stumbled upon the extraordinary role that Carrie McGavock played during and after the Battle of Franklin. He is the author of The Widow of the South.From AudioFile:
A chorus of voices revolves around the Civil War battle that took place in Franklin, Tennessee, and the McGavock home, commandeered as a field hospital for many of the 9,000 casualties. As the property becomes a graveyard, the narratives of soldiers, Carrie McGavock, and the Creole slave Mariah are taken by the four actors. Although clear enough, the performances rarely convey an appropriate sense of time and place. The language, too modern, and the accents, unrealistically refined even when the speech is not, fail to take the listener into the scene. Melodramatic writing is amplified by music that would be at home with a made-for-TV saga. Becky Ann Baker does the best she can with McGavock's angel of death role, but the uneven writing and performances are overall disappointing. R.F.W. © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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