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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Away at War : A Civil War story of the Family Left Behind

By Nick K. Adams

From September of 1861 through September of 1863 the authors great great grandfather Griffen wrote at least 100 letters from the fields of battle back to the family he left behind on the southeastern Minnesota prairie. He had left his wife and three small children on their little farm while he fought to save the Union.  It is a true story of survival of that  family on the Minnesota frontier. And most amazingly less that fifteen minutes from where Mrs. T. and I live. Of course, I’m also familiar with the story of another pioneer woman who lived briefly in our town of Spring Valley. That was Laura Ingalls who married Almonzo of the local Wilder family. More bragging on all that later…J

While the novel tells story of the “family left behind” it is all based on one hundred letters the soldier/father  wrote them during his two years of service. Those real letters  describe everything he is experiencing and thinking about, as well as responding to their communications of both hardships and endurance. It is a Civil War novel as real as life can get. 

The slow, terrifying  waiting for news, waiting for spring, waiting for his return, touch the heart.  This is a well crafted story indeed.  Minerva, her three young children, alone in a shanty on the prairie, and a few nearby fellow settlers  struggle to survive.  Can they run a near wilderness farm like this one on the own. The  three child are all 7 and under.
Minnesota’s seasons dictate their activities.  Away at War introduces the reader to the terrible impact, the pain and anxiety, and the untold suffering war causes family members left behind. A moving chronicle of the experience of war and a compelling story with relevant historical references. Of course, the place where this story really took place I’m very familiar with  so that enhances a good story even more. If you liked Little House On The Prairie I suspect you would like this one as well….. It's a bit grittier and kept me enthralled.  I don’t know if this book qualifies as a “young adult novel” but I’m sure my grandchildren would enjoy reading it and I'll love to talk to them about it this Christmas....:)

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@Barrie Summy



Joanne Noragon said...

My own great grandfather and two of his brothers were in the Civil War, but my only direct knowledge was my father's oral history heard from his grandfather.They were Pennsylvania and Maryland folk. Two of the brothers were killed, my great grandfather survived, but badly wounded in three separate battles. Not a good time for anyone. The farmers in Minnesota would not have had sustainable farms or homes as they at least did in Pennsylvania. Well, coal mines. I'm reading Prairie Fires currently, and the ignorance of pioneers about the land is frightening. I'll have to give Away at War a go when I'm through my current book.

Barrie said...

This book sounds really interesting. And that's a lot of letters! Thank you for reviewing!

Lucy said...

I agree with Barrie - it sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for reviewing!

Linda McLaughlin said...

Away At War sounds like a fascinating book. The Civil War created a national trauma. Everyone was affected. I can't imagine being left to manage a farm on my own with three little ones under the age of 7. I expect the kids grew up very quickly.

Two of my ancestors (on opposite sides of the family) fought in the Civil War, but neither was married at the time. Fortunately, they survived, though both were wounded--one at Gettysburg and the other at the Battle of the Wilderness.

Great review.

Arkansas Patti said...

This sounds like my kind of book. I love actual letters and pictures around a momentous event. Rather Ken Burns like.
We read so much about the war but so little about those left behind to struggle. I will try to find this book--thanks.

Powell River Books said...

When I was in college I was a history major. We had to pick three locations and time periods to emphasize. One of mine was the U.S. Civil War period. I remember trying to do research and always got caught up if following trails through the books of compiled letters and other documents. - Margy

Out on the prairie said...

Sounds interesting, a area not approached by many

Cynthia said...

I'll be looking for this one. I can't imagine a mother and young children surviving alone in Minnesota in the 1860s. Thanks for the review.

George said...

I'll have to check this book out. Thanks for the heads-up.

Vicki said...

Looks good, TB, and I passed on your review to my family in Minnesota. My grandson is 14 and perhaps would enjoy it although it is my 9 year old grand daughter who loves Laura Ingalls books. Thanks for sharing a good read...again.

Sarah Laurence said...

Wow, Minerva sounds like a real frontier hero to manage a farm on her own with 3 young kids! That's so cool that Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in your town too!

Linda said...

Sounds interesting. One of the things I remember about the Little House series is that the girls were very responsible for their ages and sometimes their parents left them alone for a couple of days at a time. If you did that today you would get a visit from social services!