RoadTrip America

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The Widow of the South, by Robert Hicks; read by Becky Ann Barker, Tom Wopat, David Chandler, and Jonathan Davis

The Widow of the South

Based on a true story, this extraordinary book about one of the last great battles of the Civil War is a must. Carrie McGavock's teenage decision to wear only black was a foreshadowing of the life she would lead. The privileged daughter of a plantation owner, she sank into depression after the deaths of three of her five children. It wasn't until a confederate general commandeered her home as a hospital and she tended the wounded soldiers of the Battle of Franklin that she discovered her true purpose in life. Over 9,200 men died in that battle, and 1,500 of the confederate casualties were buried in the fields behind Carrie's home. When she learned that a neighbor was planning to cultivate the meadow and plow their bodies into the earth, she and her husband arranged to have the 1,500 fallen soldiers buried on their property, Carnton Plantation. She spent the rest of her life tending those graves, keeping records of the boys' deaths and contacting their families to inform them of their sons' final hours, becoming known as the Widow of the South.

Although this novel is based on fact, the author has created additional characters and has crafted a tale of romance. One of the soldiers who had been as determined to die in battle as Carrie had been determined to die in spirit brought her love in the midst of the death and suffering. First time novelist Robert Hicks has written a book about the Civil War that is more about the impact of a famous battle on the lives of the people involved than it is on the details of the battle. Hicks illustrates the emotional conflict that war causes by blending the horrors of war with the sensitive and loving responses of the people who experienced those horrors.

This audio book is narrated by four talented actors who give life to a multitude of characters of every description and voice. Union and Confederate soldiers, young boys, Negro slaves, plantation owners, shopkeepers, and poor farmers all describe what they saw and felt during the days of the battle, giving the listener a feeling of being an eyewitness to history. The final disc of the book contains an author's note, where Robert Hicks describes what motivated this Tennessee music promoter to pursue his passion and write about the history of his home. It also has photos, artwork, and narrator profiles that can be viewed on a computer.

The author's use of the language suggests a time and place that might have been the South of the Civil War. How can a book that entices the listener to plan a trip to explore the beauty, mystery, romance and spirituality of a place not be a great road trip book?

Ruth Mormon

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