The Wolf Pit
“He imagined his room, himself lying on the bed, watching shadows spilling through the windows, shadows the color of the amethyst ring his mother wore, the color of the mountains in the evening at the start of spring.” Thus reflects Robin, a young Confederate soldier and one of Youmans’ two main characters, on his beloved home in the mountains of Virginia as he faces the ravages of war. Set during the American Civil War, this novel focuses on two young people at the mercy of the brutal times in which they live and chronicles their valiant attempts to survive them. Robin draws inner strength from family pictures, psalms and a book about two medieval children found in a wolf pit that he discovers in an abandoned home. Agate, the mulatto daughter of a slave, is tyrannized by a brutal owner who cruelly mutilates her when he discovers that she has learned to read and write. Robin is eventually captured and transported to Elmira, an infamous Union prison camp in New York, where the vile living conditions and inhumane treatment by the guards give new meaning to the old term “man’s inhumanity to man.” Through the experiences of her two protagonists, the author masterfully portrays, in one fell swoop, the horrors of both war and slavery.
Although I’ve read numerous books about the Civil War over the years, none have portrayed this period in history more poignantly than does this fine novel. Through her impeccable research, lyrical writing and finely honed characterizations, Youmans surpassed all of my expectations—and then some! Highly recommended.