Red Moon at Sharpsburg
Noted children’s author Wells takes on the Civil War in this coming-of-age novel set in the small town of Berryville, in the northern end of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. India Moody, the green-eyed, black-haired 12-year-old daughter of the town harness maker, is a tomboyish girl who is good in school and yearns to go to college. With war on the horizon, school closes, local young men march off to fight Yankees, her best friend Julia’s Quaker family moves to Ohio, and India is sent to neighboring Longmarsh Hall to be tutored by young scientist Emory Trimble. Strongly interested in Emory’s knowledge, she is encouraged by him in her pursuit of an education. Their relationship slowly blossoms, first into mutual respect and then into romance. When Emory leaves to aid the wounded in Richmond, India resolves to change her destiny, but it’s not until after the fateful Battle of Sharpsburg, with her father dead and her mother distraught, that the resourceful India comes into her own.
Wells does a fine job of portraying the anxiety, anguish and heartbreak of the American Civil War in a small but heavily fought over area of Virginia. Vivid details of bloody battles, bad food, endless flies, dirt, bravery, brutality, and the utter destruction of a way of life in a peaceful valley provide an excellent sense of time and place. Her colorful and varied characters are drawn as realistic individuals, coping in different ways to the unimagined horror brought to their very doorsteps. Wells’ knack for storytelling, combined with a spunky, smart, and appealing heroine, makes for a good read.