Lexington, Kentucky, 1859. After saving John Hunt Morgan from a puma attack, fifteen-year-old farm boy Will Crump joins Hunt’s militia, the Lexington Rifles. Morgan mentors Will and enrolls him in the local university, where he hopes to study law. As tensions rise between the North and South, Will is torn between his loyalty to Morgan and his love for his family. Will’s father, sisters, and sweetheart follow the Union, while Morgan and Will commit to the South. As part of Morgan’s band, Will participates in ambushes and unconventional warfare until his first real battle at Shiloh. He fights bravely, but increasingly questions what the war is accomplishing, and whether his devotion to honor has led him astray. And where is God in all this killing?
Will’s sister Albinia, friend of the Clay family, becomes increasingly aware of the plight of the slaves. When she finds Luther, a slave she knows, trying to escape, she must decide between her conscience, and her friends. She becomes involved in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves to freedom – but will it cost her love and her freedom?
Will’s other sister, Julia, is approaching spinster status and despairs of ever meeting a man who can give her more than life on a farm until she meets Hiram Johannsen, a son of immigrants who owns a steamship company. They marry and she makes a new life in the North. When Hiram answers the call to fight for the North, Julia runs the steamboat company in her husband’s absence and uses her boats to help Albinia ferry escaped slaves to freedom. Her business relations put her in the perfect position to spy for the North. When the Confederates capture her, will she survive?
Luther is one of the first slaves Albinia helps flee the South after his master cruelly abuses his mother and sister. He escapes with his family, and when war breaks out, he fights for the North as an auxiliary of the Third Ohio Cavalry, alongside Julia’s husband, Hiram, and against Morgan and Will. Luther has to confront the demons of his past, an abusive master, and a slave catcher that kills his little sister. Will the desire for revenge destroy him?
Throughout the war, Will is forced to examine and question everything he believes in—his faith in God, his love for his family, his loyalty to Morgan, and his worth as a human being.
Will and his family must somehow mend the torn fabric of relationships to find peace, and reach Across the Great Divide.
My Review: I was given this as an ARC for the Historical Fiction Virtual Blog tour. I don’t know how much spoilers I can go into, but I’ll keep to a minimum.
Across the Great Divide is a very well done attempt at displaying how the brutal American Civil War practically destroyed life for Americans due to the issues of slavery and secession. Coming back in 1865 to find your home ruined, your fortunes devastated, and your whole life was wasted. You fought for a cause, and that cause was defeated. The author definitely evokes this kind of attention and detail in this book. The historical research feels superb, and there is never a moment that questions you. You are fully immersed into the time frame. You get to see the grunts of Generals, officers bellowing orders, and men dying for a cause that ultimately was pointless. The American Civil War could have been prevented in many different forms, but that’s alternate history. America’s history has had a list of conflicts dedicated to the rights of states, liberty, freedom you name it. Yet at that very moment, I felt for the soldiers on both sides, that really had no cause to fight each other. However I was more on the side of Luther and the slaves, because had the Civil War not happened, I don’t think we would have seen an improvement in rights for African Americans. The Civil War changed a lot of things regarding slavery. Did the systemic racism and hunting of African American slaves end? It did not. But under Grant, he did a lot more good, even if his government was corrupt. But then again he was a solider, not a politician.
I liked many of the characters in this epic novel. Some minor nitpicks that I felt, at points the families re-uniting needed a little more difficulty. Sometimes it felt like two families divided on both sides, but it was too easy for them to unite. Now I don’t know myself how easy it was for families to re-unite after the war had ended. It couldn’t have been, considering the economic blockade that Lincoln and General Scott had approved. It could have been that families did re-unite easily, who knows? I would have wanted to seen more difficulty, since Micheal depicted the brutality of war so well. The greatest strength of this novel was depicting Luther’s journey. His journey was extremely difficult. But he survived through an terrible journey through this war. I imagine there were many slaves like him in exactly the same situation. What I also loved was how we got to the civilian’s point of view of how they viewed the war. Really, the Civil War was a training exercise to strategists knowing full well that Napoleonic Tactics had long run their course, and that future wars would ultimately become a mess. Warfare had advanced too much. I liked Julia, Harim, Will and Robert and his wife. But I did want to see some additional struggles imposed upon them. Because either way, this was a fruitless waste of lives. And it was sad. It was brutal. I agreed with the author at the end, that such wars should never happen again. But what is human nature but to fight? All the world religions talk about a golden age where we lived in eternal peace. Now we’re living in an age of chaos, where you know it will all be redone again. Makes you really wonder what will happen in the future. I have no doubt that soldiers of the Civil War were experiencing this. I feel this is a great epic novel, and my rating is a solid 5/5.