The Burning Land (The Overstreet Saga)

Written by David O. Stewart
Review by Kathryn Bashaar

Henry Overstreet and Katie Nash fall in love in the small town of Waldoboro, Maine, during the American Civil War. When Henry decides to enlist in the 20th Maine regiment, their romance must be conducted via letters. The couple marries when Henry gets a brief leave in July of 1864. Soon after he returns to duty, Henry is gravely injured. Katie travels to Washington, DC, to lovingly nurse him back to health. But the full extent of how much their lives have changed only becomes apparent later.

Henry is restless after his recovery and discharge. He is a ship joiner, and the Maine shipbuilders can no longer compete with bigger shipyards, so work is scarce. When Henry hears from an old Army buddy about opportunities in the growing town of Chicago, he is determined to migrate west. Katie is reluctant to leave their families and their hometown, but Henry insists.

Despite the limitations of his war wound, Henry works hard, and the family slowly beings to prosper in Chicago. But Katie is unhappy raising their two small boys in a dirty, noisy, ramshackle frontier town full of strangers. And then their hard-earned prosperity is destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The plot of this novel could have been tighter. The young couple face many different challenges, but there was no strong single theme that ran through the story. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book. Katie and Henry are very appealing and sympathetic characters. And the historical research that went into this book is evident. The author gives just enough detail to bring the times to life, and is particularly good at battle scenes.