I Shall Be Near to You is the first book by author Erin Lindsay McCabe. For a first novel, it was great! BUT…It only gets 3 stars from me because it just never transported me off the pages and into the world of the story. For me, that’s the hallmark of a great book…when I forget I’m reading. Sadly, it didn’t happen with this book.
Rosetta Wakefield is a young newlywed who follows her husband into the civil war. The author’s notes at the end of I Shall Be Near to You recount the stories of some REAL women who did just that. It is a fascinating concept…going to war as a woman disguised as a man.
The fictional Rosetta takes on the persona of Ross Stone and does indeed follow her husband, even to the point of fighting at Antietam. Seeing the war through a woman’s eyes is enlightening. Still, the story just didn’t grab me and draw me in. I saw other reviewers who cried at a certain part of the story (omitted from this review for spoliers). I didn’t cry a tear. I wasn’t witnessing an emotional moment, let alone living one. I was just reading about it.
A minor criticism: at one point the author refers to pupils which are dilated from laudanum. As a nurse, I groaned at this small error. Opiods (which laudanum is) make the pupils constrict, not dilate.
I often judge books on a reread or don’t reread scale. This is in the latter category.
When Marielle marries Connor she becomes an instant mother to his children. His wife, Sara, passed away in childbirth four years earlier. Marielle leaves all that she has known to become his wife and she moves to the home that he lived in with Sara – a stately manor which bears the scars of the Civil War: Holly Oak.
Holly Oak has been in the family for generations and there are rumors that the house has a “memory” of the trauma it has witnessed over the years. Surely, there was trauma. The house still bears the wound of a Union cannonball in the north wall.
“A Sound Among the Trees” is a superbly written novel by seasoned author, Susan Meissner. She weaves a tale of “now” and “then” together beautifully. The novel begins with Marielle and Connor’s wedding and that sets the stage for a story that weaves throughout many generations of southern women who lived at Holly Oak.
This is not a “haunted house” story so if you’re looking for one of those, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a novel with rich character development, a thought-provoking theme (there are discussion questions at the end of the book — perfect for book clubs) and a lyrical glimpse into life in Virginia during the Civil War…look no further.
**I received a complementary copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review as part of the publisher’s Blogging For Books program.**