Monday, March 9, 2015

Stephanie Grace Whitson's "Daughter of the Regiment" - juxtaposes two women on either side of the Civil War

Daughter of the Regiment   -     By: Stephanie Whitson
Stephanie Grace Whitson weaves a fascinating tale of two women who, sharing one county yet residing on opposite sides of the war, are thrown together on the battlefield. When 6-foot Maggie Malone receives word that her brother Jack has been wounded in battle, she packs a bag and sets after him to care for him, falling right in with the regiment.  Back in Littleton, southern belle Libby Blair is playing hostess for the Wildwood Guard of Confederate soldiers camped on her lawn. Both know that soon the two armies will collide, but how many boys they love will be lost in battle to come?

While the Civil War is often described as the war that pitted brother against brother, nowhere was it more prevalent than in the border states, like Missouri. Littleton is a town divided by war, one half "fighting for freedom" and the other fighting "to end tyranny." The author does a great job depicting this controversial area, where there are those who keep slaves, those who don't but still support the Confederacy, and those who support the Union, all living in the same town, about to battle one another. With friendships and family ties severed, how can anyone truly win in such a tragic situation?

Whitson finds a beautiful balance in her tale, where there is a definite right and wrong, yet neither side can be classified as purely evil or perfect. On the Yankee side, Maggie has her "boys" that she loves, yet there are certain men in the regiment that she avoids, who fight out of cruelty and hatred. On the Confederate side, it is the same - Libby serves many good, young men who she cannot bear to see hurt, yet others are not good men. The women do not focus on the politics of who is right and who is wrong, but rather on loving all the men placed in their care. And whatever else may happen, love never fails.

Prejudice comes in all shapes and sizes. We generally assume that those with the power are the judgmental bullies, while those who are looked down on - be they black, Irish, or whatever - are the innocent oppressed. But the reality is that anyone can be prejudiced. Libby, the southern belle, surprised me in that in her first assessment of Maggie, she sees someone who is smart, sensible, and would make a good friend. Maggie's first opinion of Libby is decidedly less kind - just an narrow-waisted, empty-headed, biddable southern belle who would look down on Maggie. For Maggie, accustomed to prejudice against the Irish, it becomes an excuse to be prejudiced against the class of those who have generally looked down on her. It is a strong reminder that any of us can be prejudiced, not just those we expect to be. 

I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the two women, who are so different, yet their hearts are the same. When it comes to it, the story doesn't need Colt's viewpoint, as these two women are strong enough to carry the story on their own. Whitson proves again that she is an excellent storyteller with an eye for historical detail. 4.5 stars!

Thank you FaithWords and NetGalley for providing an e-copy for review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.

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