Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wiechman, Kathy Cannon. Like A River.

Wiechman, Kathy Cannon.  Like A River.    Calkins Creek (Boyd's Mills)  2015  336p  $17.95  ISBN 978-1-62979-209-5  ms  Historical fiction  VG-BN    

The Civil War attracted all sorts of participants, including both underage and women soldiers.  When representatives of these two categories meet, this Civil War story comes alive.  Characters in the debut novel by Kathy Cannon Wiechman are believable, often fighting demons of their own along with the enemy.   When Nate nearly dies jumping into a lake, his brother, Leander Jordan, takes his place by signing up for the Union army in Ohio.  While in a southern hospital, Leander meets Paul Settles, and together they build a relationship as Paul nurses Leander through the loss of his arm.  When Paul’s soldier father dies, Paul moves back to his regiment but is caught and sent to Andersonville.  The horrors of that prison camp are world-renowned; Wiechman’s job is to describe them without scaring young readers.  She accomplishes this through the use of vivid description and an authentic storytelling ability that is only eclipsed by her dialogues and well-narrated interactions between characters.  Rivers play a part in setting the background and drawing parallels between the lives of the characters and the life of a river.  Wiechman fits a lot into one novel, ending with Settles’s release from the kettle into the fire, literally.  Settles endures one final near-death experience, the Sultana explosion, a tragedy of epic proportions at the end of the Civil War.  Imagine Andersonville.  Then imagine a deeper Hell, an overloaded boat returning prisoners of war to their homes and an explosion that kills most of them.  Wiechman brings the story to a predictable closing, but there were so many surprises throughout the book that the reader needs predictability at the end.  The world is small and coincidences happen; thus, young readers will like Wiechman’s resolution. 

Summary: When Leander signs up to become a Union soldier, he learns the hard way that as a young teen, he isn’t mature enough for war.  He accidentally blows off his arm, and it is while he is hospitalized that he meets someone who will change his life forever.      

Civil War-Fiction                                           --Martha Squaresky

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