Like a River
A Civil War Novel
Winner of the Grateful American Book Prize
This moving story of two young Union soldiers “joins other great middle grade novels about the Civil War”—an “excellent” read “for all fans of historical fiction who enjoy a hint of romance.” (School Library Journal)
Leander and Polly are two teenage Union soldiers who carry deep, dangerous secrets . . . Leander is underage when he enlists; Polly follows her father into war, disguised as his son. Soon, the war proves life changing for both as they survive incredible odds. Leander struggles to be accepted as a man and loses his arm. Polly mourns the death of her father, endures Andersonville Prison, and narrowly escapes the Sultana steamboat disaster. As the lives of these young, brave soldiers intersect, each finds a wealth of courage and learns about the importance of loyalty, family, and love.
Like a River is a lyrical atmospheric first novel told in two voices. Readers will be transported to the homes, waterways, camps, hospitals, and prisons of the Civil–War era. They will also see themselves in the universal themes of dealing with parents, friendships, bullying, failure, and young love.
Wiechman debuts with a grim Civil War story about two underage Union soldiers, Leander Johnson and Paul Settles. When Leander's older brother suffers an accident that leaves him without the use of his legs, Leander enlists in his place. Soon severely wounded through his own clumsiness he is taken to a makeshift Georgia hospital, where he meets Paul, whose father is dying there. The two become friends, growing closer when Leander discovers an important secret of Paul's. With Leander stronger and headed home, Paul's story, in which he is captured and sent to Camp Sumter, takes over. Wiechman delivers a realistic portrayal of the gritty details of prison camp conditions as Paul witnesses many soldiers succumb to infected wounds, disease, and malnutrition. Just as the worst seems to be over, the explosion of the Sultana steamboat takes nearly 1,800 lives, most of them prisoners finally going home, and causes Paul to fight for his life like never before. An extensive author's note provides historical background, including several period photos. Horrific moments land in quick succession, but the book has strong merit as accurate historical fiction. Ages 9 up.