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The Yankee Widow

Review

The Yankee Widow

THE YANKEE WIDOW by Linda Lael Miller is set during the Civil War and takes readers right through the Battle of Gettysburg in all its horror and death. Caroline Hammond, the main character, becomes a widow at the start of the story when her husband, young Jacob, dies after becoming grievously injured at the Battle of Chancellorsville. She travels to Washington City, as it was known then, and finds him at the point of death.

Returning home with his coffin, Caroline prepares to continue to operate their farm to provide for herself, her daughter Rachel, and their worker Enoch. Many of the chapters are told from the viewpoints of these various characters. Enoch, a former slave who was purchased by Jacob's father when he walked by a slave auction on a visit south, was set free after he worked off his purchase price. However, he continued to work for the family and saved his earnings. He is treated as an equal and joins the Hammonds for dinner. Through his remembrances, we learn about his history and come to understand why he is so loyal to Caroline and her family.

"THE YANKEE WIDOW is in no way a thriller, yet you will be on the edge of your seat until you find out how it all ends."

Caroline's mother, Geneva, married a doctor, and they raised Caroline when Caroline's parents and sister died. We learn about both Geneva and an escaped slave named Jubie when they tell the story from their points of view. We meet Bridger Winslow at the same time Jacob does, at the Battle of Chancellorsville when Jacob is dying.

But we really come to know Bridger and his best friend, Rogan McBride, in later chapters. These friends, like brothers, are from opposite social strata, one abandoned as a child in the North and the other the scion of a wealthy plantation-owning family, raised with all the gentility of a Southern gentleman. They are fighting on opposite sides of the war, and we become better acquainted with these two noble men from their words and, even more so, their actions.

And, of course, there is Caroline, a strong woman who loses her husband. She must bear the responsibility of the Hammond family farm and care for her young daughter when there is a war raging at her doorstep. We come to respect and appreciate Caroline, as most of the story is told from her point of view, which is an admirable one. Caroline is everything a woman should be --- kind and compassionate, yet strong and intelligent. But she has a secret about her marriage to Jacob that worries her and makes her feel guilty.

However, the most exemplary star of the story is Miller's beautiful writing, as she muses on war, the nature of man and the strength of women. On the Hammond farm, after the Battle of Gettysburg, among the wounded and dying, she writes, "The screams and moans were a constant, inescapable part of war, a reminder that, in this supposedly glorious game of kings and knights, it was the pawns who shed the most blood."

While there undoubtedly were noble acts aplenty during this war fought between Americans, Miller portrays acts of bravery and compassion that will bring her audience to tears. The dying request of McBride's fellow soldier, a youngster (which McBride fulfills), will warm the heart of even the least compassionate reader.

This beautifully written novel has several stories contained within its pages. Each is carefully painted within the frame of the horror and violence of the deadliest war in American history. Miller's extensive research and knowledge of the time period and the war show on every page. But it's the emotion and the touching accounts she shares that will pull at readers' heartstrings. You will feel the anguish of the characters, fear for their safety and come to realize that they're all, in fact, heroes. THE YANKEE WIDOW is in no way a thriller, yet you will be on the edge of your seat until you find out how it all ends.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on May 24, 2019

The Yankee Widow
by Linda Lael Miller

  • Publication Date: May 7, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Mira
  • ISBN-10: 0778316416
  • ISBN-13: 9780778316411