Saturday, August 16, 2014
I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
An extraordinary novel about a strong-willed woman who disguises herself as a man in order to fight beside her husband, inspired by the letters of a remarkable female soldier who fought in the Civil War. Rosetta doesn't want her new husband Jeremiah to enlist, but he joins up, hoping to make enough money that they'll be able to afford their own farm someday. Though she's always worked by her father’s side as the son he never had, now that Rosetta is a wife she's told her place is inside with the other women. But Rosetta decides her true place is with Jeremiah, no matter what that means, and to be with him she cuts off her hair, hems an old pair of his pants, and signs up as a Union soldier.
With the army desperate for recruits, Rosetta has no trouble volunteering, although she faces an incredulous husband. She drills with the men, proves she can be as good a soldier as anyone, and deals with the tension as her husband comes to grips with having a fighting wife. Rosetta's strong will clashes with Jeremiah's while their marriage is tested by broken conventions, constant danger, and war, and she fears discovery of her secret even as they fight for their future, and for their lives. Inspired by more than 250 documented accounts of the women who fought in the Civil War while disguised as men, I Shall Be Near To You is the intimate story, in Rosetta’s powerful and gorgeous voice, of the drama of marriage, one woman’s amazing exploits, and the tender love story that can unfold when two partners face life’s challenges side by side.
When I first read the description of this book I was simply fascinated. I love all things Civil War but I had never heard anything at all about women disguising themselves as men and fighting alongside their husband, fathers and brothers.
When the lists of casualties start being posted, Jeremiah and his friends decide they need to join up. Rosetta doesn't want Jeremiah to go without them being married, so in just a few short weeks time, they get married and he goes off to fight. Once he leaves, Rosetta decides she can't stay behind and be a wife without a husband so she cuts her hair, puts on a pair of pants and heads off to join him. These actions are tied to the Bible in a couple of different ways - a husband and wife leaving their parents and cleaving to each other and the story of Ruth and Naomi (wither thou goest, I will go). It's a beautiful action of a woman who can't bear to be separated from her husband - and a husband who can't bear to be separated from his wife, because when Rosetta finally reaches Jeremiah, even though he fears for her safety, he can't bring himself to insist she go home.
This book was very compelling. The descriptions make you feel like you are there. The courage of all these people - men and women - is simply amazing. The raw fear combined with the need and desire to fight for what they believed in is inspirational.
I laughed, I cried, I loved it all.
Be sure to read the author's notes at the end of the book - some really interesting information - and I was, quite frankly, shocked by some of it.
This is a not to be missed book.
More information can be found here: http://www.randomhouse.com/book/228490/i-shall-be-near-to-you-by-erin-lindsay-mccabe
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.