Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Hearts of Stone by Kathleen Ernst
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Hannah and her siblings are left alone when their mother dies. Faced with being split up or trying to find relatives in Nashville, the family heads out only to find themselves in dire straits in the city with nowhere to go. Hannah is plagued by doubts about whether she is doing the right thing by her siblings and is strapped with trying to protect them. She is also filled with regret about her relationship with a neighbor boy Ben, whose father was a Rebel while Hannah's was a Union soldier. Slowly losing more and more family possessions and faced with starving to death, Hannah has to decide how to save what's left of her family.
The immediate aftermath of the Civil War is something I don't often see dealt with in books. It always seems like the war ends and suddenly everything is fine for all the characters in the book. This book deals strictly with the affects of the war on families back at home. Tennessee specifically had a very strange place in the war as many men actually became Union soldiers and there was much Union support in some places. The awful conditions for civilians after the war is generally ignored in novels, specifically YA ones. This is a refreshing filling in of a piece of an ignored space of history. There is no fighting mentioned, just the plight of refugees who don't know what's happened to their families and who have no where to go.
Hannah is a tough young woman thrust into a role that she shouldn't have to handle, but who has no other options. She struggles to make up her mind about certain things and is nagged by doubt that she's doing the right thing, but she acts to try to keep her family together and is strong during tragedy. She has to sacrifice her strict code of what is right and wrong to feed her family, but doesn't do so easily. This is a well written book about a blank space in YA historical fiction.