Author: Laird Hunt
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Genre: Historical Fiction
Hardcover Edition: 243 pages
Source: Personal Copy
Can You To Home Again?
The title and content of this book remind us of the homelessness of those who serve in war. Even for those who are able to return home, there is great difficulty in feeling “at home”. Life irrevocably changes for a survivor of war. Some combat veterans lose whole chunks of themselves, almost as easily as the limbs amputated in the bloody American Civil War.
In this story readers accompany a woman who marches off to fight in the Civil War, leaving her husband to tend their Indiana farm. There is a dreamlike quality to her story, an unreality. Yet who is to say what is real and what is unreal? She is a fierce, hard woman, capable and tough when she leaves, honed and torn by her experiences among fighting men, faced with bloodshed and unspeakable experiences that shred her mind. She walks with stones in her shoes and demonstrates grit doing it. The book jacket promised she would fight her way into the reader’s heart. Perhaps. She does fight until the very last page.
More information continues to come to light about the experiences of women in the Civil War. Mr. Hunt has fashioned a story with mystery, uncertainty, and ugliness. Vulnerability and caring are in short supply, too wounded to make much of an appearance. Lovely sentences lift the reader above the dark truths of what happens to this woman. The author displays skill when weaving this character’s past and present together. Clarity is one of his virtues as a writer. “We shot the pig, got it trussed and hung on a birch pole between us, and made our way back to the meeting point, where after many a rest we presented our pig and made our report.” This may remind the reader concerning the small stature, youth, and lack of good health of many of these soldiers. Moving the pig was a hard job. A woman did not necessarily present as noticeably smaller, weaker, or less skilled than many of the men.
Rereading this story will likely reveal new insights. After the unusual of a woman in pants, masquerading as a man, after certain mysteries of her life are uncovered, layers of meaning may well come to light for a reader. Mr. Hunt shares some of the history books helpful to him in writing this book. Such information provokes thought in fellow writers and historians. But there is little doubt that this story is his creation. The heroine, Ash (Constance) Thompson is her own woman, dependency is not her style nor her goal. Her life events challenged her almost from the beginning. Perhaps a hard adventure comes into being as the logical outcome.