Book Review: The Sentinels of Andersonville

23 Jan

If you say, “But we didn’t know about this,”
won’t He who weighs hearts consider it?

Proverbs 24:12

Sentinels-of-AndersonvilleNear the end of the Civil War, inhumane conditions at Andersonville Prison caused the deaths of 13,000 Union soldiers in only one year. In this gripping and affecting novel, three young Confederates and an entire town come face-to-face with the prison’s atrocities and will learn the cost of compassion, when withheld and when given.

Sentry Dance Pickett has watched, helpless, for months as conditions in the camp worsen by the day. He knows any mercy will be seen as treason. Southern belle Violet Stiles cannot believe the good folk of Americus would knowingly condone such barbarism, despite the losses they’ve suffered. When her goodwill campaign stirs up accusations of Union sympathies and endangers her family, however, she realizes she must tread carefully. Confederate corporal Emery Jones didn’t expect to find camaraderie with the Union prisoner he escorted to Andersonville. But the soldier’s wit and integrity strike a chord in Emery. How could this man be an enemy? Emery vows that their unlikely friendship will survive the war—little knowing what that promise will cost him.

As these three young Rebels cross paths, Emery leads Dance and Violet to a daring act that could hang them for treason. Wrestling with God’s harsh truth, they must decide, once and for all, Who is my neighbor?

PTG0330_9713b1Tracy Groot is the critically acclaimed and Christy Award–winning author of several novels. Her most recent books exemplify her unique style of storytelling—reimagining biblical stories within other historical contexts. Tracy’s novels have received starred Booklist and Publishers Weekly reviews and have been called “beautifully written” and “page-turning” by Publishers Weekly and “gripping” with “exquisitely drawn” characters by Library Journal. Tracy and her husband have three boys and together run a coffee shop in Holland, Michigan.

 

My Impressions:

January 18th was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday in the United States. Proverbs 24:10-12 was included in our Sunday School class lesson —

If you do nothing in a difficult time,
your strength is limited.
Rescue those being taken off to death,
and save those stumbling toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we didn’t know about this,”
won’t He who weighs hearts consider it?
Won’t He who protects your life know?
Won’t He repay a person according to his work?

As I read these words I was reminded of Tracy Groot’s Civil War era book, The Sentinels of Andersonville. In this gripping novel, the characters must come face to face with what they really believe — are all men worth saving, or only those we call our brothers? Both of my book clubs read Sentinels this month because we are hosting an Author Meet And Greet for Tracy Groot. She is in town to take part in Museum Night at the Andersonville Historic Site just 45 minutes from my home town. I am beyond excited about meeting her and hearing about how she came to write Sentinels. To say the novel is moving and thought-provoking is certainly an understatement. One of By The Book’s members told me it was the best historical fiction we have read in the 12+ years of meeting. If you have not read this book, by all means pick it up and move it to the very top of your TBR pile.

Three young Southerners come face to face with the horrors of Andersonville Prison in the last year of the Civil War. Sherman is advancing on Atlanta and the prison population has increased to 28,000 men in the 26 acre camp. Conditions can only be described as hellish, yet there are glimpses of hope and help amid the darkness. Violet Stiles, an Americus belle, Dance Pickett, a guard at the prison and Emery Jones, an Alabama soldier, seek to rally the people of Americus to alleviate the suffering at the prison. But their new group, the FAP – Friends of Andersonville Prison – is met with varying degrees of dismissal and open hostility. It is hard for a town that has faced so much loss at the hands of an invader to find compassion for the misery of its enemy.

Tracy Groot has written a book that needed to be told. Fair-handed on both sides of the issue, she reveals the true heart of the conflict between the North and the South. Characters, both major and minor, are well-developed. The dialog of the characters advances the story, but also fleshes out their personalities, motives and feelings. I especially liked Violet’s character. A true Southern belle, she has been shielded by the harsh realities of the prison by her father. But when she comes face to face with the truth, she falters only a moment, then gathers her will to do what is right. A member of Page Turners said that Violet was a cross between Scarlet and Melanie from Gone with The Wind. I also liked the relationship that develops between Emery and the Union soldier he condemns to the prison. And Dance’s sacrifice to uphold a promise made me wonder what my own response would be if faced with a similar situation.

As always when trying to review a truly wonderful book, I find my words are inadequate. So I will leave you with this one admonishment — read this book!!

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

A big thank you to Carole Jarvis at The Power of Words. She hosted a giveaway in which I won a signed copy of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

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  1. Author, Author! — Tracy Groot | BY THE BOOK - January 26, 2015

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