Taking an unusual perspective on the American Civil War, Kline spins a tale of a U.S. Navy ship on duty off the West African coast who hears about the genesis of the conflict back home. Two sides emerge, mirroring the conflict in the States. After the death of the captain, already existing animosities within the ranks, as well as tensions in the port, forces the crew to have the Southern sympathizers find their way back to America. This journey becomes the focus of the tale, and the two protagonists find their personal beliefs called into question as they forge relationships they would never have thought possible. Kline has an extensive personal history with the subject matter; having had a father who served in the region and introduced him to the culture and people of West Africa – especially Liberia, where the book is set. Kline himself was a Marine, and is an active re-enactor who’s played various similar roles on-screen. The writing is dense, and at times this necessitates re-reading to ensure both pace and plot are followed. Local argot is accurately captured, and Kline does a masterful job in reconstructing not only life aboard a ship, but also in the various African ports and towns we find ourselves traveling through.
At times the thread of action is hard to follow and characters not as carefully delineated as could be hoped for, but after a few pages this seems to right itself and the story continues. Details are substantial; from the relationships among local communities, customs and food traditions, language variations, let alone all things Navy. Most appreciated are the maps at the end of the book, as well as a “Who’s Who and What’s What,” as he puts it, which explains some of the terminology and gives a richer backstory to some of the main characters. Suitable for most audiences, but catered more toward the reader well-versed in the time period.