Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an extensively well researched book, the author having woven the story primarily from her grandfather's journals but also from old newspaper clippings, letters, war journals, and stories he related to her and her parents. Her grandfather was 9 years old when the Civil War began and the story 11 year old Jethro chronicles is her grandfather's story. Jethro watches a war unfold around him and feels the effects of it on his community and on his own family.
Five men & boys, age 16 and over, join the forces, four with the Union, and one enlisting with the Confederates. Despite literature that ideallizes the simplicity of an agrarian life in the 1800's, the reality is life was hard, with or without war. Living in Southern Illinois, was a hotbed for conflicting feelings; there were cousins in the family who fought, & died, on both sides. The author gives readers compelling arguments on both sides and the emotions that went with that division, not only within the country but within communities and families. The book begins and ends in April, over a period of 5 years. During these 5 years we see the main character, Jethro, become a man as he takes on the responsibilities not only of the large family farm, but bring for other household duties and being a role model for his brother's sons who live with them. He finds himself in the middle of dangerous, even life threatening situations with some lowlife townspeople who persecute him & his family for having a son / brother considered a traitor for have having joined the Confederates.
I am so glad I read this book. I not only gained insights to the Civil War, but to the realities of life 150 years ago. This was a wonderful book---A good book for men and women, both, whether history lovers or readers who prefer human dramas. I would recommend only to young adults who are avid readers. It is another book I give an extra star to for no vulgar language, gratuitous sex, or descriptive violence. It does deal with some shady vile characters, and some heart wrenching situations in regard to the war, but does it in a tasteful, easy to read style and is a highly moral book with a realistic but satisfying conclusion. Considering the themes and subjects it deals with, it could be very dark, but it is not. I'm a better person for having read it.
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