Voices Over Water
In this contrived and clunky novel, Herlong-Bodman tells the story of Sarah Edings, a South Carolina planter’s daughter and Confederate spy who pretends to be a teacher of slave children so the occupying Union soldiers will allow her to remain on Edisto Island. The novel follows a predictable plotline, with the beautiful young Sarah soon meeting and nursing the superficially wounded, handsome Union Captain Wilcox. The dialogue is stilted and often preachy, and clichés abound. Sarah fools Union officers by saying, “Do I look like a spy?” smiling, putting her hand to her heart, and fluttering her eyelids. The novel also demands a hardy dose of willing suspension of disbelief, as these same officers then hand her a newspaper with the latest information about troop numbers and battery sites. The novel mimics Gone with the Wind, as Sarah bemoans her now callused hands, puts on a new green dress (thankfully not made from her mother’s curtains), and goes to see her Rhett Butler-ish former beau to try to borrow the money to pay the taxes on her land.
The novel does keep up a steady pace, and Herlong-Bodman, who lives on the barrier islands of South Carolina, does a good job of giving the feel of the South Carolina low country to the setting. Though Voices over Water is kitschy, it may appeal to fans of the genre who prefer a comfortably familiar plot.