One of my favorite things about reading historical fiction is learning some new truths. Every once in awhile, a novel will pop up with an interesting setting and then there is something about it that we hadn’t discovered before.
I Shall Be Near to You takes readers to the Civil War. But what is different is that the main character masquerades as a man to be near her husband, an enlisted soldier for the Union. While I have recently read another book with a female character being a soldier in the army, I don’t think I knew the prevalence of this taking place. It is phenomenal how some of the most interesting aspects of history are sometimes the least well-known.
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An extraordinary novel about a strong-willed woman who disguises herself as a man in order to fight beside her husband, inspired by the letters of a remarkable female soldier who fought in the Civil War.
Rosetta doesn’t want her new husband Jeremiah to enlist, but he joins up, hoping to make enough money that they’ll be able to afford their own farm someday. Though she’s always worked by her father’s side as the son he never had, now that Rosetta is a wife she’s told her place is inside with the other women. But Rosetta decides her true place is with Jeremiah, no matter what that means, and to be with him she cuts off her hair, hems an old pair of his pants, and signs up as a Union soldier.
With the army desperate for recruits, Rosetta has no trouble volunteering, although she faces an incredulous husband. She drills with the men, proves she can be as good a soldier as anyone, and deals with the tension as her husband comes to grips with having a fighting wife. Rosetta’s strong will clashes with Jeremiah’s while their marriage is tested by broken conventions, constant danger, and war, and she fears discovery of her secret even as they fight for their future, and for their lives. Inspired by more than 250 documented accounts of the women who fought in the Civil War while disguised as men, I Shall Be Near To You is the intimate story, in Rosetta’s powerful and gorgeous voice, of the drama of marriage, one woman’s amazing exploits, and the tender love story that can unfold when two partners face life’s challenges side by side.
Erin Lindsay McCabe writes this story in a way that it reaches into your soul. There are few books (or movies) that bring tears to my eyes, but this story did more than that. I’ve never read a novel that had me dreading turning a page because I was so afraid of what could happen but was so compelled to do so because I needed to know this story.
From the narrative to the dialogue, this story places the reader inside of Rosetta’s head. Seeing and feeling everything she experiences as a woman fighting in the Civil War alongside her husband, Jeremiah. So many times, historical fiction novels are interesting because they take place in a setting that we can’t experience in a firsthand way. This novel is perhaps the closest to reliving a piece of history as I have ever read.
Even more remarkable is the questions that this book offers suggestions to: Why would a woman decide to fight? How could she keep her gender a secret? What struggles would she face? It amazes me that there were so many women who did this very thing, but yet it seems nearly unheard of.
If you enjoy historical fiction as much as I do, and especially Civil War era, this book should be a must read for you. But I must put a disclaimer out there because this is not a Christian fiction book as I typically review: there is some language in the book, few descriptions of a more graphic nature, and some sexually suggestive content.
I would highly suggest checking out Erin Lindsay McCabe’s website for images from the locations the characters travel through. She also has quite the bibliography of books on her page that she utilized for this novel, and a number of other interesting things.
For more on the author or this book, please check out the following links:
- Erin Lindsay McCabe’s Website
- Visit Erin Lindsay McCabe on Facebook
- Follow Erin Lindsay McCabe on Twitter
- Read what Erin Lindsay McCabe is reading on GoodReads
- Check out I Shall Be Near To You on Amazon
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**I received a free copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review**