Book Review

Going Home & Love Among Enemies By: Lorraine Tate

By: Mary Ickes

As Faith longed for peace, she didn’t expect life to drastically  improve overnight, but neither did she expect Reconstruction’s all-consuming hell.  Not only is her beloved Confederacy annihilated, but the Yanks “. . .want us to pay for our insurrection.”    Her three brothers survived the war merely to starve to death along with everyone else?  Small game hunted out of the woods, beans, acorns and nuts barely stave off starvation.  More disheartened than ever, Faith laments, “What did we gain after four long years of [war]?  Nothing, but thousands dead, destruction of our lands and crops, and an infliction of poverty that lays on us like a hardened layer of dung.”   Faith and Athel decide to move back to Rome, Georgia.  If their aunt, uncle, and cousin Harriet, foundry owners, fled during the war, the city still promises safety and employment.
Faith welcomes adventure and change, yet dreads leaving the family farm.
Visiting the graves of her mother and siblings for the final time, she forces herself to recall . . .the corn shuckings, the singings and quilting bees;. . .the warm embrace of her mother and Charity. . . . Also, she worries that Jonathan will never find her.  Despite Athel’s sneers that soldiers are liars, Faith is convinced that the man who risked his life for her family makes no empty promises. She leaves a letter with a trusted friend.
To Faith’s relief, Mistress Malone, the local healing woman, announces that she will accompany them to live with her sister Birdie in Rome. As they prepare to depart, Faith seethes when Mistress Malone introduces people she invited to travel with them, including April Tisk, a young woman with two small daughters.  Twenty-one days later, with 98 miles and a river-crossing disaster behind them, they arrive in Huntsville.  Faith and the children long for hotel beds and hot food, but Athel orders them to camp on April’s parents’ farm.  Faith soon realizes that April wants Athel to restore her parents’ farm to prewar prosperity.  Betrayed by Athel, Faith declares, “I won’t do . . .  what I’m told . . .  anymore” and continues on to Rome with Mistress Malone. 
Faith’s decision to leave Athel behind redefines her character and her life. 
Without Athel, Faith survives dangers entirely foreign to her.  Dressing like a man fools no one, leading to accusations that a woman outside domestic confines is wanton, crazy, or both and undeserving of male assistance, four young children notwithstanding.  After a man sneers that the only law’s God himself since the war, Faith and her Spencer rifle help Him keep law.  The Faith Davis who left Winston County and the Faith Davis who arrives in Rome, Georgia are not the same woman. 
New reports of Sherman’s march through Georgia little prepared Faith for Rome’s devastation.  Her aunt and uncle dead and her cousin Harriet living in a boarding house, Faith moves into Birdie’s toolshed.  Her family safe, Faith commences a plan to earn a living that violates Reconstruction policies and is preposterous for a woman to consider, let alone implement.  Faith persists, because she . . .hated how women were generally perceived as weak, useless when the job required physical labor, mindless when a task involved finance, and emotionally vain and inferior when endurance was demanded. Simultaneously, she will establish schools and libraries for Black, Indian, and White children. 
Jonathan, if he appears, is the only drawback to Faith’s new independence and confidence.  She will never again relinquish her position as head of her family to anyone.

Readers’ primary objection to these books will be Faith’s credibility: how could a girl, age 13, protect a farm and her siblings during four years of war?   The same way her brother, age 16, survived the Battles of Bull Run, Shiloh, and Antietam.  Like Athel on the Southern front and Jonathan on the Northern front, disobeying orders on her home front never occurred to Faith.   Beneath the Civil War’s natural bombast, Going Home and Love Among Enemies salute the bravery and sacrifices of Faith and her Civil War peers.
Going Home opens with the observations of Unionist Mary Henry after the Battle of Bull Run (1861) and Confederate nurse Kate Cumming following the Battle of Shiloh (1862).  Then Quentin opens the narrative by yelling at Leisha to get ready for school, an interesting first page, but crucial plot twist.  Leisha and Sylvia, her mother, weave the story’s numerous viewpoints into a chronicle preserving women’s history for future generations.
In Love Among Enemies, Jonathan learns Southern ways from a wide spectrum of women.  At one end shines Miss Breeda, whose hospitably encompasses everyone; on the other end lurks a woman refusing to patronize a restaurant until the owner ejects a Black child.   Midway lives Mahilda Cox whose family teaches Jonathan that Southern families are patriarchal.  From her letters, he can’t imagine Faith accepting domestic dominance.
Likewise, Faith learns from other women, especially Mistress Malone, always the voice of reason and kindness amid chaos.  April Tisk’s scheming causes anguish anew for Faith’s family and future.   Cousin Harriet, though kind and generous, longs for prewar society: “I want my life back – a house, clothes, entertaining, theater, teas.”  Isabella Smathers introduces Faith to familial brutality; her father does “. . .anything for money.  Hire any of us kids out . . . to do anything . . . for the right price.”   From the diminutive Birdie, everyone learns lessons of compassion and courage.  
Ms. Tate’s historic research lends Faith and her peers credibility; she spares no details of the Civil War’s brutality: the battlefield slaughter and the surgical tents; the Lawrence Massacre (1863), booshwhackers (bushwhackers) butchering murdered victims, and Home Guard atrocities. Neither does she gloss over Reconstruction’s smug tyranny over dispirited Southerners.   Through the darkness, hope constantly glimmers as Faith and her peers forge new lives from broken spirits, property, and families.  
Their stories will continue in Blood on the Coosa, to be published in January

Going Home and Love Among Enemies are not Ms. Tate’s first and second books, but her third and fourth. At she teaches us writing hopefuls a succinct lesson on working toward success. She begins, After more rejections than I like to count. . . .

Since I’m writing Mary’s bio, I’ll start at the beginning. Once upon a time, in April 2010, Mary saw my picture at the veterinary’s office.  Since I’m a tuxedo cat who looks like St. Duffy (so entitiled when he went to that cream bowl in the sky), she wanted to meet me.  Nothing more!  Not sure about her, but I’m living happily ever after.
Purrs and cream,

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