by Julie HaleAugust, 2007
The Judas Field
Set in 1885, this richly detailed historical novel examines the repercussions of the Civil War on a group of veterans. The novel's main character, Cass Wakefield, fought with the Army of Tennessee in 1864, at the Battle of Franklin, a conflict in which most of the casualties about 8,500 were Confederate. Now middle-aged, Cass lives in Mississippi and works as a salesman. His neighbor, a widow named Alison Sansing, lost her father and brother in the Battle of Franklin. Alison, who is dying of cancer, enlists Cass' help in traveling to Tennessee to retrieve their bodies. Cass has misgivings about revisiting the scene of the battle, and he dismisses offers of assistance from two other veterans, Roger Lewellyn, an old friend, and Lucian Wakefield. Yet, once Cass and Alison make it to the battlefield, the two veterans also arrive, and a reunion of sorts takes place. Naturally enough, the journey dredges up horrible memories for Cass. The author skillfully shifts between the past and the present, alternating episodes of the war with scenes of the recovering South. The way in which the survivors' stories come together makes for an unforgettable ending. The author of two other acclaimed Civil War novels, Bahr is a master of detail, and his knowledge of one of the most turbulent eras in American history gives this story depth and life. A reading group guide is available online at www.picadorusa.com.