The Road from Chapel Hill
The Road from Chapel Hill offers readers a fascinating and blessedly stereotype-free drama about life in divided North Carolina during the Civil War. The lives of its three main characters often intersect or run parallel, influencing the fates of one another, but Scott wisely avoids the trap of a too-convenient coming together at the conclusion. She has created multidimensional characters and a driving narrative, and her meticulous historical research is richly evident throughout.
At the start of the novel, Eugenia is the spoiled daughter of a failed slave-owning landowner who had aspired for much more but who has been reduced to penury and manual labor. Her feelings of resentment and humiliation, combined with the strong affection she has for Tom, their only remaining slave, set into motion the events that change the lives of several people, sometimes tragically. Clyde is a poor farm boy and aspiring slave catcher (and an all-around opportunist) who was responsible for the capture of Tom before the outbreak of war. Through a twist of fate and his growing bitterness against the Confederacy’s injustices toward poor whites, Clyde is reluctantly swept into the war fighting for the Union.
This is a novel about the consequences of Eugenia’s rash actions and her subsequent redemption set in a time of war and divided loyalties. Scott seamlessly leads the reader to the novel’s surprise ending, revealing a truth which can be said to be symbolic of the American South and of America itself. This is a fascinating read for those looking for memorable characters trapped in the crossroads of a bloody civil war.