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The Widow of the South
By Robert Hicks

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The Widow of the South

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The Widow of the South
By Robert Hicks
Read by Becky Ann Baker, Tom Wopat, David Chandler, and Jonathan Davis
Time Warner AudioBooks, (2005)
An Abridged Recording on 5 CDs
ISBN: 1-59483-109-2
Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewed by Herbert White - September 22, 2005

The Widow of the South is an incredible piece of historical fiction that is based on real events. This is the first novel written by Robert Hicks, yet it reads like the work of a seasoned writer. Hicks' story is brought to life in this audio edition by Becky Ann Baker, Tom Wopat, David Chandler, and Jonathan Davis who together read this memorable tale with feeling and vigor. Having a number of readers is especially appropriate for this book as it is told from several viewpoints, and includes numerous flashbacks. Having multiple readers makes it much easier for the listener to follow the story.

The story centers on Carrie McGavock, whose home, the Carnton Plantation, was used as a field hospital by the Confederate army during and after the Battle of Franklin. One of the more deadly battles of the American Civil War, the Battle of Franklin was to be the cause of more than 9,000 deaths. The battle, which took place on November 30, 1864, was fought near Franklin, Tennessee, and it was one of the last major battles of the Western campaign.

This tragic battle serves as a haunting backdrop to what is essentially a love story. While her home filled with bloodied and dying soldiers, one man in particular, Sergeant Zachariah Cashwell, formed a bond with McGavock. In The Widow of the South Hicks chronicles their tortuous love - hate relationship.

What makes this story so compelling is that McGavock, even before the battle, lived a macabre lifestyle. She dressed in widows' reeds, despite the fact that her husband was still alive. She mourned the loss of several of her children - while ignoring those that still lived. It is obvious that she was somewhat unbalanced, and as the story unfolds, her relationship with Cashwell brings her some sense of sanity - at least for a while. McGavock helped to tend the wounded that invaded her house, and after the battle saw to the reburial of about 1,500 Confederate soldiers on her own property, and set about to mourn for them for the rest of her life. How these men, who were initially buried elsewhere, come to be interned on McGavock's land is an integral segment of this story.

This audio edition of The Widow of the South includes some informative bonus material that both enhance the text and which provides background information on the facts upon which this story is based. These include photos of the Carnton Plantation, profiles of the narrators, and a note from the author.

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