by Laird Hunt
- File Size: 836 KB
- Print Length: 257 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0316370134
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 9, 2014)
- Sold by: Hachette Book Group
- ASIN: B00HQ2N0D4
My Rating: 4.5 of 5.0
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.
Ash is strong and Bartholomew is not. So Ash leaves the farm behind in Indiana to become a Union soldier. Ash joins other travelers along the roads until they reach a recruiting center and join a regiment. The new recruits receive some training during which it is discovered that Ash is quite a sharpshooter. What isn’t discovered until over a year or more of gruesome battles is that Ash is a woman.
During one march through a small town Ash scrambles up a tree to give ‘his’ jacket to a young woman whose top was torn by a tree branch. Thus Ash earns the name, and a song ballad, of “Gallant Ash”. Ash has other moments of remarkable bravery that save others and secure the nickname. But there are also complaints to the Colonel that Ash has stolen food. She denies this and accepts that the Colonel will not advance her in rank but, of course, Ash doesn’t want any extra attention.
Ash pushes through many dreadful battles but is finally injured. She awakens on the field to find herself pinned under a tree. There is a wounded, old soldier nearby who responds to her calls, helping her until she crawls out. The remnants of her unit have already gone and she sets off to find them. She trudges on with the deep wound in her side, facing moments of delirium.
Eventually Ash stumbles to a war hospital but realizes that her secrets will be exposed if she stays in line. She follows a nurse home where she is nursed back to health and becomes a woman again. But Ash is betrayed and finds herself dragged off to an insane asylum. They laugh at her tales of the war and treat her cruelly like all the inmates.
Ash finally escapes and travels a round about way home. When she comes back to her town she learns that her childhood nemesis has taken over the farm, bullying Bartholomew. She returns to her war persona to deal with the vermin at her home.
I found the story itself remarkable but even more wonderful was the writing. The prose drew me into the time and setting. War is an ugly thing yet the writing delivered the images in an eerily frank but almost gentle tone. There is violence, confusion, love, betrayal, delusion and a bit of mystery. The story was not quite what I expected – it was much more.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~A sense of the bleak reality of the war:
Death was the underclothing we all wore. Location 394.
I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley.