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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.
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By Cariola on 12-16-15
Good but Not Flawless
There is much to admire about Neverhome: the lyrical prose, the sensitivity to women's issues, the message of war's dehumanizing influence, etc. The basic premise is that the young Thompsons feel an obligation to fight for the Union, but since Bartholomew is "too soft" and would likely end up killed, Constance dresses as a man, takes the name of Ash, and signs up. It's a situation not unheard of, though most women disguised as male to accompany their husbands into battle. "Gallant Ash" is an expert rifleman and soon learns to kill with no remorse. There's a horrific scene in which she "disguises" as a woman and enters a cabin to bash in one man's head with a jug and shoot his companions in the head--and this is the first of many such incidents. In letters home to Bartholomew, we learn how they fell in love; and we suspect that her inability to give birth to a child caused an estrangement--a sense of personal failure--that hastened her march to war. In time, Ash's true gender is discovered, and she is confined to a mental asylum. By then, this reader had begun to wonder if there was more than the "craziness" of a woman going to war that put here there: Ash has come across as a disturbed person through a series of surrealistic dreams and conversations with her dead mother, not to mention some questionable decisions and actions. As others have mentioned, the novel's conclusion isn't the happy, expected one, but its disturbing nature is a fitting end to the bitter cruelty that Constance/Ash has suffered and caused.
What I found somewhat annoying was that I never got a clear sense of exactly WHY Constance felt the need to go to war, and it didn't make a lot of sense when I started asking myself questions, like how did Bartholomew get out of being conscripted, and how he managed the farm on his own if he was such a weakling, and why his neighbors didn't question where his wife had gone. So for me, this book ended up as an interesting psychological study of one character and a devastating look at the effects of war.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
By RueRue on 11-14-14
Unique Female Character
An interesting and well written story about "Ash" Thompson, a female who fights (disguised as a man) in the Civil War. The prose is lyrical without being overly descriptive, and the narration is spot-on.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful