The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers
Loosely based on a true story, this is a compelling first novel set in South Carolina during and after the Civil War. Teen Placidia Fincher marries Major Gryffith Hockaday shortly after they meet, and almost immediately Gryffith is called back to war. Placidia, 17, finds herself managing the isolated farm and raising toddler Charlie. Scavengers visit, claiming to need supplies for the soldiers. Slaves come and go, and it’s a struggle to get enough help to plant and harvest crops. Some of her relatives, half and step siblings, are surprisingly spiteful, but one neighbor is very helpful. Two years later her husband comes home, to scandal. Neighbors tell him that Placidia had a baby, and soon after buried the child. He files a law suit, and she stays with a nearby doctor’s family, writing letters to her cousin that describe her life during the war while stubbornly refusing to reveal how she got pregnant. The pace continually intensifies, with plenty of drama and some violence, as the reader, and the younger generation who discover Placidia’s diary, are compelled to find out the facts, especially what happens to Placidia and Gryffith when he discovers the truth.
The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
This novel shifts back and forth in time, from a contemporary couple struggling with infertility who move into an old house in a small suburb of Washington, D.C., to 1859 and the Civil War years, featuring Sarah Brown, one of abolitionist John Brown’s daughters. The house connects the two stories, along with a doll and the Underground Railroad. I thought the part of the book about Sarah was a much stronger story, although she lived through some tragic times. Sarah had a fascinating life, well-researched by the author. The modern-day couple, Eden and Jack, aren’t as appealing, although their quirky neighbors and scenes of small-town life are enjoyable. Recommended for anyone who enjoys Civil War era fiction.
A Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas
Eliza Spooner and her two children struggle to run their small Kansas farm after Will joins the Union Army. Eliza and her friends meet once a month to quilt and support each other, and Eliza sends Will a special down-filled quilt for Christmas. Widowed Missouri Ann and her little girl move in, and an escaped slave needs a safe place to stay. Finally, the Christmas quilt is brought home after the war in a most unexpected way. A quick read, this charming, heartwarming novel about life on the homefront during and right after the Civil War is loosely connected with The Persian Pickle Club.