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Posted November 13, 2004
Civil War St. Louis Reviews...
by Tom Mach
by Tom Mach
by Tom Mach
Paperback: 345 pages
Publisher: Hill Song Press (January 1, 2004)
Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
As Penelope walked back to where she had been, three
horsemen riding down the street, reined their horses in front of her. “Men
keep disappearing here,” one of the men growled, looking down at her with
black, contemptuous eyes. “Yeah,” said another. “Where’re they hiding?”
“I’m not going to tell you,” Who did they think she was, she thought, a fool?
The first man drew his horse nearer to her and pulled out his pistol, aiming it at her face. “Tell me, lady, or I’ll shoot you!”
excerpt from "Sissy"
From the author of "Sissy", part 2 of the Jessica Radford Trilogy:
All Parts Together reviewed
Reviewed by D. H. Rule
“It was the bitter turmoil in Kansas--and not the firing at South Carolina’s Fort Sumter--that precipitated the Civil War.”
Thus begins the forward to the novel “Sissy” by Tom Mach. This novel won the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award for Best Kansas Novel. Self-described as a tribute to the brave ladies who contributed to their nation’s efforts in the Civil War, the novel lives up to that claim, following the adventures of several women through the war in the West.
Jessica Radcliff, the novel’s main character, is a complicated young woman who deals with both the external struggles in which she is enmeshed, as well as her own internal battles. Losing her family early in the war, she ultimately decides to take up arms for the Union, disguising herself as a man. Though she plays the male role, Jessica is always written as a true woman, competent and capable. The author never gives in to the temptation to write her as a male character thinly disguised as female. Her character is consistent and becomes vivid and real as her story progresses.
The strongest scenes in the novel center around the slaves and ex-slaves in the story. The scene that I found most touching concerned the death of a young ex-slave named Lazarus in the arms of a prostitute.
In “Sissy” the title character may or may not even truly exist. Sissy is the imaginary friend of Nellie, a girl rescued by the underground railroad to live free with Jessica Radcliff’s family, before being re-enslaved by the primary villain of the novel, Sam Toby. Sissy appears to be pure fantasy in the mind of Nellie until, bit by careful bit, her existence and story are shown to be threaded throughout the entire novel, and throughout the lives and experiences of the other characters.
“Sissy” has a large cast of characters who can be hard to keep track of at first, but the author ultimately brings all the diverse threads twining and retwining to culmination at the Lawrence, Kansas massacre.
The perspective of “Sissy” is that of northern abolitionists and those seeking the southern Confederate perspective won’t find it here.
Some anachronisms leapt out of the story--an occasional 21st century P.C. flavor in some characters’ thoughts and comments-- as well as a few minor points of historical dispute, but, on the whole, “Sissy” gives a life and flavor to the time and place so important to the history of the Civil War in the West.
©2004 D. H. Rule
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