War Starter
by Jordan McClung

"There may be war, and you would win, would that victory be worth the bloodshed and destruction?"

Author McClung’s novel boldly examines the many points of view that eventually coalesced in the cataclysmic conflict that came to be known as the Civil War in the 1860s. The MacGregors, a clan of Scottish descent, own a plantation near Charleston, South Carolina. The story focuses on the recollections of Matilda (Tilda) MacGregor, spinster daughter of Sam, who is a well-educated preacher with many concerns and a special fondness for Tilda—though she shows herself as a nonconforming female early on—and her brother Runyon, whose medical skills will call him to duty in the war. At age 90, Tilda’s reminiscences begin in 1860 when Lincoln is running for President and talk of slavery, secession, and war is rife. Through her diaries and memories, we see her transformation as she becomes a teacher for people her family once owned, lives through two massive wars, secures the right to vote, and worries that yet another war is looming.

McClung, with roots in the Carolinas, writes almost as though he lived in the times he describes. In the mouths of his characters, he voices the sometimes-skewed perceptions that were used to justify slavery in the pre-war South. He also gives the viewpoint of some of those formerly enslaved people as they begin to develop a sense of personal autonomy after emancipation. Through the eyes of Sam, Tilda, and others, the reader will see that the issues surrounding slavery were never easy to parse, especially for thoughtful, religious people. McClung also paints a vivid portrait of Charleston, where the first shots of the war were fired, and which was devastated by the conflict those shots created. McClung’s book will be appreciated by students of Southern history, offering fresh insight into thorny topics that are often glossed over but are fair reminders of the historical time frame.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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