The Widow of the South
“The widow of the South” is Carrie McGavock, the wife of a Tennessee plantation owner who, in 1864, finds her house commandeered as a field hospital by Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest. After the Battle of Franklin, wounded men cram every square foot of Carnton’s stately rooms. Numbed by the deaths of three children and her emotional separation from her husband, Carrie discovers purpose in caring for the remains of a decimated army. Time spent with one of the injured men, Arkansas sergeant Zachariah Cashwell, helps her heal wounds from her past, and she goes on to arrange the interment of almost 1,500 soldiers on her property.
A note from the publisher compares this novel to Cold Mountain and Gone with the Wind. When I read these types of claims, I usually smile skeptically, but in the case of The Widow of the South, the hype is warranted. This is an intensely moving and wholly believable novel. Hicks crafts his characters with care, resulting in people we learn to care about too.
If, like me, you’re not particularly interested in the American Civil War, read The Widow of the South. It offers what is found in only the best historical fiction: a story so irresistibly attractive that you decide upon finishing it to go out and read everything that’s ever been written about the events that inspired it.