"Since New Orleanians did not marry during Lententide, Stanley and Elizabeth set their date for the Saturday that was the eve of Quinquagesima."

Beginning in a world where George B. McClellan claims the role of the seventeenth president of the United States, this book tells the story of the Confederate States, which had won independence from the United States of America. It follows Eric, a member of the New Orleans bourgeoisie, whose unique family history places him as an upstanding member of society. Readers also meet Stephanie, a young woman from Tulsa studying at a women's college. Meanwhile, amid Eric and Stephanie's blossoming romance, political changes abound and affect not only the United States but also the Confederate States. At the same time, the threat of a European war looms, and delicate world power balances threaten to tip in ominous directions.

The novel's plot plays with many political and social issues that concerned the United States as the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth. Stephanie is an interesting character because of her feminism and independence. The book briefly focuses on the suffragist movement and posits that, unlike in the USA, in the Confederate States, suffrage was "more hit and miss" because "political parties were in a rebuilding phase." The focus on women's rights and the rebuilding of political parties resonate with America's current political state, where women and female-identifying people continue to focus on, and fight for, their rights. The book's portrayal of political parties attempting to rebuild themselves also echoes America's current political scene, which seemingly undergoes massive shifts on a daily basis. Even politicized issues like daylight savings time find a place in the novel, with the Confederate states of Kentucky and Tennessee firmly opposing it. Most of the conflict arises from the Pelican Party, which pushes for the Confederate States to reconnect with the United States.

Gross' book bears the traits of a post-antebellum Southern novel. Also driving it are the intertwined generational stories surrounding Eric's nearly lifelong friendship with George. These stories thread with each individual's reflections about New Orleans, the city integral to the book and the characters. Throughout the novel, readers may notice how the characters' personalities mirror the places essential to their identities. In this regard, the book examines how location influences politics and people. Because of heritage and tradition, many people—especially those with long, historical ties to an area—often resist change.

The author's work is unique in many ways and stands out from many other alternate histories. Its take on an America-that-could-have-been will make readers think about how a single event has the power to transform a nation and a people forever. Its ideas about what the United States may have become had the Confederate states gained their independence is also interesting, especially during the current political flashpoint in America's existence when various groups have called for the secession of certain states from the nation. For readers interested in pursuing alternate histories but not knowing where to begin, this book is an easy gateway into the genre. For established readers of the genre, this book will be a unique addition to their reading lists.

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