This title is co-authored by sisters Kathy Hepinstall and Becky Hepinstall Hilliker. Their unique pairing produces a story about sisters thrown into the Civil War by the death of a husband. The two sisters, Josephine and Libby, sneak away from home, disguise themselves as men, and enlist in the Confederate Army.
Their relationship is complex, their emotions raw, and their bond both fragmented and cemented. Descriptions of soldier camps and hardships suffered are graphic and detailed. This reader found the incorporation of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo an interesting element. The book evidently was commonly read by soldiers in camp and quoted while marching.
The central themes are sibling love, hate, revenge and survival. Libby is portrayed as mad and self-absorbed, Josephine as protective and emotionally isolated. Unfortunately, that is where the structure of the book weakens. Each sister is so absorbed in her own world; there is little emotional connection to the other. Although the reciprocity of caring between Libby and Josephine is disappointing, the book’s prose is beautiful. The authors know how to paint with words. While the book truly fascinated me as a convincingly accurate view of the Civil War, I found the structure a bit awkward. The galley I read was pre-publication. Perhaps scrupulous editing prior to its release will refine the novel.
Hepinstall is the author of Blue Asylum, published in April 2012, a finely crafted story about an insane asylum during the Civil War.
NetGalley provided the advance readers copy for my unbiased review.