Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Date: October 2013
Duration: 13 hours 45 minutes
From bestselling author Dennis McFarland comes an extraordinary Civil War novel: the journey of a nineteen-year-old private abandoned by his comrades in the Wilderness, struggling to regain his voice, his identity, and his place in a world utterly changed by what he has experienced on the battlefield.
In the winter of 1864, young Summerfield Hayes, a pitcher for the famous Eckford Club, enlists in the Union army, leaving his sister, a schoolteacher, devastated and alone in their Brooklyn home. The siblings, who have recently lost both their parents, are unusually attached, and Summerfield fears his untoward, secret feelings for his sister. This rich backstory is intercut with stunning scenes of Hayes’ soul-altering hours on the march, at the front—the slaughter of barely grown young men who, only days before, whooped it up with him in a regimental ball game; his temporary deafness and disorientation after a shell blast; his fevered attempt to find safe haven after he has been deserted by his own comrades—and later, in the Washington military hospital where he eventually finds himself, now mute and unable even to write his name. In this twilit realm, among the people he encounters—a compassionate drug-addicted amputee, the ward matron who only appears to be his enemy, the captain who is convinced that Hayes is faking his illness—is a gray-bearded eccentric who visits the ward daily and becomes his strongest advocate: Walt Whitman. This timeless story, whose outcome hinges on the fellowship that is forged in crisis, reminds us how deep are the wounds of war, not all of which are visible.
“Employing three alternating narrative strands—Hayes’s idyllic life in his native Brooklyn, his horrifying battlefield experiences, and his nightmarish hospital recuperation—McFarland manages to find something new to say about a war that could have had everything said about it already. In the end, this is a moving account of one soldier’s journey to hell and back, and his struggle to make his own individual peace with the world afterward.”—Publishers Weekly