Kathleen Ernst's newest tale of historic fiction follows teenage Chigger O'Malley as he courageously faces everyday challenges in the war-torn town of Williamsport, Maryland, during the American Civil War. Ernst realistically shows us the sorrow, hatred, agony and confusion that the War Between the States caused not only to the soldiers in battle, but to those who remained behind. Chigger, too young and small to become a soldier, has been left to mind the family land and keep a watchful eye on his mother while his pa and older brothers are off fighting for the Union forces in the Irish Brigade. One of the many emotionally-charged turns in the story comes when his father and all of his brothers are killed in battle. Chigger, a mere teenager, realizes he is now the man of the family. Torn between his desire to fight for his country and his responsibility to shelter his mother, Chigger is angry, frightened and constantly hoping that the war will just end. Chigger's hatred for the "cursed Rebels," as he calls them, becomes almost uncontrollable when he and his mother are forced to care for a severely injured officer. This hatred and his desire to avenge the deaths of his father and brothers drive Chigger to plot to kill the soldier, even though he knows he could be killed himself. True to Ernst's strength in writing about internal and external conflict, it is the officer's continued kindness that teaches Chigger not everyone in a Confederate coat is his enemy.
Even until the last page, Chigger grapples with his emotions and beliefs until he summons up his courage to rely on his own intuition and compassion, thus, truly becoming the man of the family.
Heidi Henneman has written for various consumer magazines, including the popular teen title Twist. She lives in New York City and is a member of the DAR.