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John Gore is eighteen years old in 1862 rural Kentucky. He has struggled his entire life with stuttering and the ridicule associated with it. Unable to speak well, he has focused on writing. Seeing the opportunity for advancement in the military—and with it, respect—John joins the Union army. Unfortunately, his stuttering prevents him from warning a friend of an enemy attack and John watches his friend die. He is racked with guilt and the fear that others saw him fail at the key moment . . . a fear that proves prescient.
John soon meets a girl but they must forge a friendship and then courtship through letters, allowing him to express to her what he can’t say in person. Meanwhile at home, John’s impetuous younger brother causes trouble with garrisoned Union troops angry at Southern sympathizers.
If you think the description of this book sounds as if someone just stuck together a book of Civil War letters, you are mistaken. This is a heart-warming, heart-wrenching story. With an historical fiction genre, it is often my nature to look up dates mentioned. Not to check anyone’s accuracy since it is fiction, but I like to see if the events involved are approximate. Especially when a story includes the events of the Civil War. Even though this is fiction many of the statements are factual, the battle dates, the looting, the poverty, the atrocities committed by some people and the goodness of others. I want to add that I don’t think I would call this the YA genre. It was thoroughly enjoyable and as I have said before, I’m an adult as often as I must be, and it never lost my interest.
To give you an idea of this story…this is a group of letters between a soldier and his younger brother. He did not want to try and keep a diary so asked his brother who was too young and still at home on the farm, to save everything so that he had something in writing of his picture of the war. While this may seem like I am describing a diary, it’s format also looks that way. But looks can be deceiving and this book has so much more. It points out the many hardships that the Civil War brought to both enlisted men and to their families. There’s some history, some lessons to be learned, and some thought-provoking ideas. All these letters really make a small history book. If you get the impression that I really felt this was non-fiction it’s because it was so very lifelike that I forgot it was a story, a good story but what seemed almost biographical. That makes J. Edward Gore a pretty good storyteller doesn’t it?
Gore’s presentation of the letters made his characters real. It became the story of what must have been the true thoughts of both a soldier away from home and a young boy living a childhood, missing his brother. This story doesn’t always turn out the way we might want stories to, and it is most certainly full of some ugly violence; not graphic, just ugly truth. It is however full of verbal pictures of many facets of the Civil War. Things in my opinion we shouldn’t forget.
Read an excerpt...
It was just a couple of days before meeting Annie that Sergeant Hickman gave us our gear. You’d have thought he was handing out gold. We’ve been eating, sleeping, and marching like soldiers, but still wearing our same old farm clothes. Now we look like soldiers. Our pants are gray wool, scratchy but warm. The coat is blue and thick. Women from a few surrounding counties made them. I traded around for a couple of days before finding ones that fit. The boots were stacked in a heap so we spent almost an hour trying them on. Scrap said he could tell a left shoe from a right, saying these were some of those, “crooked shoes,” but for me it was like sexing a frog.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Edward purposely avoided history classes in college because he felt they were boring. Years later he read the Shaara trilogy, opening his eyes to how fascinating the Civil War could be. He recalled as a boy his grandmother telling him of his ancestor, John Gore, who fought for the Union. Visiting battle sites and participating in reenactments has made the Civil War more than just pictures and words. Instead he could feel the fear, excitement, grief and anger.
Born and raised in central Kentucky, not far from John’s birthplace, Edward currently lives outside of Nashville, TN with his wife, two kids and a goldendoodle.