Beyond the Wood


Set during the American Civil War and “not long ago,” this is the story of Union soldier Hank Gragg and his several-times great grandson, Reid. For generations the men of the Gragg family have made a pilgrimage to Virginia. Reid’s father insisted that Reid make the journey, but it was only after his father’s death that he did so. Upon his arrival at the old farmhouse beyond the wood, he meets a woman who seems to know all about the Gragg’s story. Reid is entranced by her tale. Hank Gragg left his home in Virginia to wander and join the Union army after his humiliating rejection by Betsy, the woman he hoped to marry. During Hank’s disappearance, his family thinks him dead, Betsy marries a Confederate officer and Hank sees the horrors of war. During his first battle he finds himself at the side of a dying Confederate soldier who asks only that Hank deliver a letter to his wife, Ellie. In his journey to get the letter to Ellie, he finds himself falling in love with the idea of her. Betsy is shocked, both by the letter from her dead husband, and by the Union soldier who delivered it, the man she rejected but never stopped loving. They begin corresponding, with Betsy waging an inner war between her growing love for Hank and her desire for a comfortable life. Finally when the war is over, Hank is determined to meet Ellie, whose letters helped him survive the deaths of friends.

There are many secondary characters in Hank’s story, but I did not really feel that I got to know them well enough. Much of the dialogue is very verbose and maybe a little overly dramatic. Overall, a decent read with some good imagery, for someone who enjoys the era of the American Civil War.

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