The Glory Cloak

Written by Patricia O’Brien
Review by Andrea Connell


In 1858, newly orphaned Susan Grey arrives in tranquil, insulated Concord, Massachusetts, to live with the family of her cousin, Louisa May Alcott. She swears loyalty to her adored cousin for rescuing her from a grim and lonely life. When the war breaks out between the Union and the Confederacy, they decide to embark on an adventure as volunteer nurses in Washington DC. Their experiences in Union Hospital ultimately alter the course of their lives and challenge their loyalty to each other.
The Glory Cloak is a wonderfully multilayered story, a rumination on human suffering and the capacity for great sacrifice and compassion during war. It is also a retelling of the extraordinary lives of Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton, brilliantly tied together through the fictional character of Susan Grey. It is at once mournful and dark, celebratory of human life, and full of a sense of place and history.
This novel is compulsively readable, enjoyable, although at times quite graphic in its descriptions of suffering at Union Hospital. This thought-provoking novel comes with my most hearty recommendation.