Title: The Yankee Widow
Author: Linda Lael Miller
Publication Date: May 1, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: eBook, ARC
A richly drawn, multigenerational saga writ large against the complexities and heartbreak among families of both sides as men take up the war to presserve the nation or defend their way of life. Told in a smart, assured and compelling voice, the novel is the story of Caroline, the young wife of Jacob, who together live on a farm raising their daughter Rachel just outside of Gettysburg. When Jacob joins the Northern army to do his duty and help save the Union, no one anticipates he will not return. Caroline gets news that he is wounded and has been taken to Washington DC with his regiment, and so she must find her way there and navigate the thousands of wounded to find him. Thus begin this saga that focuses on the strong women and men of both sides and both races who sacrificed so much and loved so well during this critical juncture in American history.
The word that keeps running through my mind as I try to write this review is atmospheric. The Yankee Widow does such a good job of sucking you straight back to the 1860’s, even when you’re reading it on your smartphone under your electric blanket with white noise playing on your computer in the background.
The language Linda Lael Miller uses sets the tone which, in my opinion, really drives the plot of this book. The characters are well-developed with flaws and strengths, which can sometimes be hard to find in characters from the 1800’s for whatever reason, and the setting was vivid. Although the farm that the majority of the story takes place on is in fact in Gettysburg, the Battle of Gettysburg doesn’t swallow the whole book. We follow the characters for quite a while before the battle happens and a long, long time afterwards. I really enjoyed the two male characters and found their relationship endearing – not to mention a great example of the division wreaking havoc on the country as one fought for the Confederacy and the other the Union – except for at the very end. The last two chapters of the book found Caroline, the main character, doing things that she claimed she wouldn’t and having feelings that were totally different than what I last knew to be true. To be fair, this all happened directly after a year’s time jump so that could explain the change in behavior, but I found it a little off-putting.
It’s obvious that this book was very well researched on several fronts – farm life and everyday tasks, propriety, language, child rearing, and then the actual Civil War on top of it all. My only complaint is that there were instances throughout the book where a bit of dialog or a description of the farm would slide into info-dumping about the politics of the war or the leaders of the war, etc. It made the reading dense at times and I would just sort of skim those parts and move back into the story.
If you’re a fan of atmospheric Civil War novels, particularly about the home front and losses, then you should give this book a try!
ARC provided in exchange for an honest review