Please join me in welcoming my wonderful friend Mary, who consistently recommends superb books to me. Mary is the one who first encouraged me to read I Shall Be Near To You, and so I thought it only fitting to invite her to write a review.
***Guest Review: I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe***
***Reviewed by Mary***
“His arms pull me tight against his chest and I bury my face in his shoulder. He shakes and it is dark enough I can still say I ain’t ever seen him cry. My heart goes to cracking wide open, but at least I am alive to feel it. I am a different kind of woman now, a wife who knows what this war really is. At least I am part of this war, part of the things Jeremiah’s done here, things that will always be hiding somewhere in his heart.”
New York, 1862. Rosetta marries her childhood sweetheart just before he leaves to enlist with the Union Army. Jeremiah is naive and optimistic about the war, thinking he’ll be gone a short while and return with money enough for them to buy their own farm. Even so, Rosetta doesn’t want him to go. Without Jeremiah, she has to play the role of wife, cooking, mending, making soap, when she’d rather be outside tending the animals or helping with the harvest. Rosetta is stubborn and spirited, and it isn’t long before she hacks off her braid, dresses in Jeremiah’s old clothes and follows her husband to war.
“I aim careful in the dying light and fire two rounds…the first don’t hit a thing, but the second shot makes a space in the line advancing. Something heavy settles in my belly when the stain blooms on that soldier’s chest, the hole in the line, the tear in the fabric of some other family.”
Rosetta’s voice is strong and straightforward; her struggles and fears are authentic and entirely relatable. The supporting characters are well-drawn, compelling, easy to get attached to. There is just the right amount of historic detail to capture the essence of the time period without inundating the reader with “research.” The way the story is told, the structure and pacing, seems effortless (though I am sure it wasn’t), and thankfully, there is no epilogue to stitch up every last detail. In short, this is as close to perfect as it can get. If you love historical fiction – if you love great fiction – read this book. But read it slowly. Savour your time with these unforgettable characters and their heart-wrenching story.
And…when you read the last page, close the book and still find yourself unable to let go of the story, read these interesting links:
The title of the book was inspired by a real letter from Union soldier Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah. Read it here.
The author’s playlist. Music can strike an emotional chord with me, and I love that the author included the songs she listened to while writing. These echo the mood of the book so well. Make sure you listen to “My Father’s Father” when you have finished the book. So, so moving.
An interview with the author. I love hearing about the process of getting this book revised and published. It was obviously a labor of love.
The original photo from the cover.Were you, like me, curious about the soldier pictured on the front of the novel? I wanted to see his (her?) whole face, and I was surprised to discover that the soldier was actually a Confederate.
A Savage Day in American History. A little more information about the Battle of Antietam.
About the reviewer:
Mary is a life-long reader and self-professed book-nerd. She carries a book with her wherever she goes, and if she isn’t reading, she’s either sleeping or dead.
I Shall Be Near To You is my spotlight book this week, and there are more related blog posts to come!