Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot (book review)

I love history. Not that I am anywhere near a buff, but I enjoy reading about history. Being an English major, I especially like either real accounts of history or historical fiction. I took a Civil War literature class in college and really loved the material I read. We lived in Richmond, VA for a few months and I enjoyed the (few - very few) Civil War historical sites we visited...namely, Hollywood Cemetery (like the Arlington Cemetery of the CSA).

image via Amazon

"The Sentinels of Andersonville" by Tracy Groot was just up my alley. Historical fiction about the prison for Union soldiers near Americus, GA during the Civil War. I hadn't really known much about Andersonville Prison prior to reading this book, to be honest. I knew there were atrocious conditions at many prisons during the Civil War and in "Gone with the Wind" a prison is mentioned that Ashley goes to.

However, Andersonville Prison is infamous. My dad and I discussed it toward the end of my reading of this book. I looked it up online and the site I read (which I don't know if it's reliable or whatnot) said that more men died in the prisons during the Civil War (North and South) than in actual battles. Again, not sure if that's true but it's close enough that someone put it out there as truth. Horrible conditions.

Groot brings us to Andersonville Prison in this historical fiction account. I really loved the intermingling plot lines throughout this book. I loved the characters - rooted for them time and time again. Violet Stiles with her passion about helping the "enemy," Emery Jones with his guts even at personal cost, Dance Pickett with his humanity. I thought even the secondary characters were believable and likable. The only thing I disliked about this book was that it was not real.

The people of this nearby town (10 miles from the prison but even the putrid smell of the prison wafted there on the right days) looked away from the starvation and abuse suffered at the hands of their beautiful South for these poor pitiful Yankee soldiers. I just can't imagine KNOWING something so awful was happening and just turning a cheek. Yet we see it in history. We saw it during World War II when Germans turned their faces from the wretched state of the Jews and others at the hands of the Nazis. Even when the Rwanda genocide happened it wasn't really real until (it seemed and I was young at the time of this occurrence) it was done. Even today we see things happening in our world and who is brave among us to stand up for those weaker than ourselves, those voiceless souls who need our help.

There is one line in this book that really stuck with me (and it is supposed to as it repeated in the afterword). Violet's father is a doctor at the Federal hospital near the Union prison. He is in dispair over the years he's worked and seen the awful happenings in the prison. He is talking to Sentinel Dance Pickett as they look over the stockade (where the prisoners are kept).

"It has nothing to do with a people rising up, but a person. One person, just one. I blame Americus no longer, and no longer will I try to rally them - but I will rally myself. If it's a lemon, if it's just a lemon - Dance, if it's just a lemon - if a lemon is all I can do, then I will do it!"

He's talking of taking lemons from his neighbor's tree to pass to the prisoners in secret. I think that's amazing. It's a revolutionary thought for any hardship. We may not be able to stop worldwide hunger but we could help supply clean water, build houses, buy food for those in need. We may not be able to stop the global orphan crisis but we can adopt, foster, support an orphanage, buy jewelry to help those wanting to adopt. There are many lemons we can drop in order to help the atrocities of this world. I believe that is the overall message of "The Sentinels of Andersonville" and I intend to implore this as part of my life and my walk with Christ.

What lemons can you drop today?

Disclaimer: I received this book in  order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and others may not have the same opinions.

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