Nowhere Else On Earth
Set during the waning days of the Civil War along the banks of the Lumbee River in North Carolina, Scuffletown residents’ way of life, turpentining, has all but vanished. On the one side are the wealthy Scottish farmers – the “macks.” Part of the feared Home Guard, they roam the countryside with deadly force conscripting boys for Confederate forts and salt works. On the other side, Union forces encroach.
Caught in the middle, Scuffletown cares little about the war’s outcome. Its residents merely want to get on with life. Here is where Rhoda Strong, part Scottish and part Lumbee Indian, watches her younger brothers disappear to join a gang that hides in the swamps. Against her mother’s warning, Rhoda falls in love with the gang’s leader, charismatic Henry Berry Lowrie. In order to survive, the gang turns to petty thieving, making Henry a wanted man. Crimes escalate until the gang’s force equals the macks’. Rhoda never wavers from her decision to stand by her man “cut from heroic cloth.”
No doubt some readers will relish the relaxed pace, but I found the first half of the book plodding. What kept me reading were the rich layers of beautifully written prose. Ms. Humphreys chooses each word with care, and the layers unfold to paint a picture of a forgotten way of life, paying tribute to the mute voices overshadowed by battles and the so-called glory of war.