"I was strong and he was not, so it was me went to war to defend the republic."
She calls herself Ash, but that's not her real name. She is a farmer's faithful wife, but she has left her husband to don the uniform of a Union soldier in the Civil War. Neverhome tells the harrowing story of Ash Thompson during the battle for the South. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause.
Laird Hunt's dazzling new novel throws a light on the adventurous women who chose to fight instead of stay behind. It is also a mystery story: why did Ash leave and her husband stay? Why can she not return? What will she have to go through to make it back home?
In gorgeous prose, Hunt's rebellious young heroine fights her way through history, and back home to her husband, and finally into our hearts.
Neverhome is a fascinating tale about a woman who sheds her female skin (and life) to leave her farm and husband and disguise herself as a man to fight in the Civil War. This was another book I picked up at Book Expo this year and to be honest, this was one I was searching for and heard a little about before the event. With so many Civil War stories out there, this is a refreshing change. I have yet to read a book that features a female impersonating a male in order to fight in the war. At first this story didn't grip me, it might have been because I was so excited for it. You know when you have something in your mind but it can disappoint you because it's really something else? Well at first, Neverhome did that for me... but then I got over it and went along for the ride that Hunt sends us along. After surrendering to the story, I felt myself starting to connect with Ash (her made-up male name)and got a glimpse into what the Author was trying to convey.
Ash (or "Gallant Ash" as her comrades call her - a nickname given early on in the story) is a strong and brave woman with human characteristics that show in her faults. She is quick to rise amongst the ranks with her sharp shooting skills and fearlessness. She is almost meant for this role and we see this during flashbacks of discussions with her husband (why she has to go and how she feels this urge). As admirable as Ash may be, the Author also shows us that she is flawed which brings her closer to someone a reader can relate to. The rest of the cast in the book comes and goes, some important while others make a small appearance. The real grit lies within Ash and her wandering thoughts of home, war and longing for purpose.
Around halfway through the book, I realized what the Author was trying to say... and I felt like a dolt for not getting it sooner. This book isn't just about a woman making her way through the war in an unconventional way. That only touches the huge iceberg the Author has set this ship on. We all know the hardships and horrible things that have happened during the Civil War through History class or the books/movies we read/watch. But what about the lack of respect women got back in those days. How about the fact that women were oppressed so much that they didn't have much of a voice. The Author must have done research and felt the need for this story to be told. A handful of women back in that time decided to fake their anatomy and fight in the war. The sad part is that if they got caught, they had absolutely no respect from anyone. No war badges or trophies, instead they got jail cells or insane asylums. This war was all about equality and human rights... yet, even the side fighting for those things showed quite a hypocritical view when it came to women. No voting, no fighting, just stay at home and be with the family. Such a sorry, sad and empty feeling but knowing that so many women back then tried to break those barriers, THAT soothes my soul. Neverhome is a new kind of story, a different perspective of the Civil War, but one that should be told and read. I would recommend this to pretty much everyone.
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Left: Hardcover - Right: E-Book (unavailable to pre-order at this time)