Review: Neverhome by Laird Hunt

I received an advanced copy of this book from Little, Brown and Company through NetGalley.

NeverhomeConstance is a farmer from Indiana who wants to see more of the world outside of her rural farm. She decides that fighting in the Civil War will give her this chance. Her husband Bartholomew would not be a good soldier and so she decides that she will make the sacrifice and march off to war and fight for her country in his place. She puts on the Union uniform, hides her feminine qualities and in this disguise travels down south to the heart of the battleground where she takes on the name of Ash Thompson.

Ash has many interesting adventures that make her a legend among her fellow soldiers. At one point she is given the nickname “Gallant Ash” and a song is written about her. She fights alongside men and oftentimes is a better fighter, and certainly a better sharpshooter, than the men. She is constantly afraid that her secret will be revealed and it is amazing that throughout the entire story only a handful of people suspect her true identity.

NEVERHOME is brilliantly written in Constance’s own voice and we see the horrific landscape of the civil war through her eyes. I admire this book as a well-researched historical novel and Laird Hunt even uses the correct accents and turns of phrase from someone in this era. The dream sequences that Constance has are vivid and haunting and I suspect that she has what we would call nowadays PTSD. She is so disturbed by some of the horrors she witnesses that reality and dreams start to blend together.

One final aspect of the book I want to mention is Constance’s relationship with her husband.  They have a unique marriage in which they seemed to have reversed what would have been the traditional roles of husband and wife in the 19th century.  Constance is the strong and brave partner while her husband is docile, passive, and even weak.

The story is so interesting and captivating that I actually read it in one day. I could not wait to find out what happens to Constance and the ending was unexpected. I would not be surprised if NEVERHOME becomes an instant American classic that all students of history will find on their course reading lists.

There are many historical fiction novels set during the Civil War.  Leave me a comment and let me know which ones you have read and would recommend.

12 Comments

Filed under Historical Fiction, Literature/Fiction

12 responses to “Review: Neverhome by Laird Hunt

  1. rivercityreading

    I absolutely loved this book, too…so much that I was a little surprised by it. I felt like all the things to appreciate about it just kept building and building while I was reading!

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  2. That is a great way to describe it, that it kept building! Even the end was interesting and unexpected. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. I really liked March by Geraldine Brooks.

    Neverhome sounds like ti’s certainly worth reading. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  4. yodcha

    You probably have read the greatest civil war book, Gone With the Wind, and also the novella Red Badge of Courage. A modern Irish author book, Redemption Falls by Joseph O’Connor deals with the immediate post war experiences of an Irish woman transversing the destroyed south in search of a lost family member. It is very powerful in bring to life the post war south.

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  5. I just finished March by Geraldine Brooks for the Lit Collective group on Goodreads. It tells about the experiences of Mr. March, a war chaplain in 1862, separated from his Little Women. Brooks modeled him in many respects on Bronson Alcott. This novel, Neverhome, sounds intriguing, as it takes a time-honored plot–a woman posing as a man in a male sphere of action–and uses it to reveal a different perspective on the Civil War from the inside. It is also interesting that she is married and her marriage figures in the story, which seems atypical for this kind of disguise plot. I may indeed read it for a particularly apt contrast with March. Thanks!

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  6. The husband and wife dynamic I found very interesting. Their unusual story continues after she gets home from the war. I don’t want to give too much away! But I thought the exploration of gender roles was intriguing in this book. If you decided to read it I would love to know what you think!

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  7. Pingback: Historical Fiction Book Giveaway |

  8. Janey

    I also really loved Geraldine Brooks’ “March”, but “Neverhome” is in a league by itself. Some of the most beautiful writing even though very spare. It is one of the best books I read in 2014.

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  9. I agree, Janey. It was a very quick read, but excellent!

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  10. I too read this book in a day, it was a day well spent!

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