Good Time Coming: A Novel of the American Civil War
Already addicted to Harris’s St. Cyr Regency mysteries, I couldn’t help but jump on the opportunity to review her new entry, a Civil War-era novel. I simply wasn’t prepared for this book, though.
We meet Amrie (Anne Marie) at age 12 during the spring of 1862. Louisiana is a hotbed of Confederate-Federal battles, and Amrie soon learns that her sleepy little Mississippi River town, St. Francisville, is not immune from the devastation of the war. Her mother—an herbalist, nurse, midwife, and sometime physician (duties frowned upon by those in “decent” society, but clearly a woman whose value is immeasurable in that day and age)—is Amrie’s rock. But it is Amrie’s encounter with a young, blond Federal that alters her perceptions of her insulated little world and nearly destroys her family and neighbors. Her innocence and belief in the decency of humanity shed, Amrie must begin to face the evil that resides in all of us.
The intensity of the Mississippi River battles, and the horrors experienced by the wives, mothers, and children of the men who have gone off to serve, are simply unimaginable. Harris, whose St. Cyr mysteries I gobble up, has become another writer here: a vigilant observer of the inhumanity of otherwise decent folk, a purveyor of uncomfortable truths, her perspective on this world the lens through which northerners like me are forced to deal with the unspeakable violence and rapacious behavior of Union soldiers against their own brothers and countrymen. Is freeing slaves the reason for the war? Not likely, when the Federals conscript black slaves to do their dirty work, their dam building, their heavy lifting. Lincoln, too, becomes less the Great Emancipator than the Civil War’s victors have been led to believe.
I am blown away. This is a must-read for anyone who believes that right and wrong are so easily teased apart.