Carnton Plantation, 1894: Carrie McGavock is an old woman who tends the graves of the almost 1,500 soldiers buried there. As she walks among the dead, an elderly man appears--the same soldier she met that fateful day long ago. Today, he asks if the cemetery has room for one more.
Based on an extraordinary true story, this brilliant, meticulously researched novel flashes back to 1864 and the afternoon of the Civil War. While the fierce fighting rages on Carrie's land, her plantation turns into a Confederate army hospital; four generals lie dead on her back porch; the pile of amputated limbs rises as tall as the smoke house. But when a wounded soldier named Zachariah Cashwell arrives at her house, he awakens feelings she had thought long dead--and inspires a passion as powerful and unforgettable as the war that consumes a nation.
The grand scale of drama in this Civil War novel that recreates the life of Carrie McGavock, whose Tennessee home became a Confederate hospital and who later tended a massive cemetery in her backyard, feels ready-made for the movies and hearing it read aloud makes that feeling even stronger. The music that swells up under the tense and emotional parts is sometimes a little overblown or sentimental, but it captures the mood and enhances the listening experience. The readers (including Becky Ann Baker, Tom Wopat, David Chandler and Jonathan Davis) use Southern accents strong enough to be authentic but not too thick to be comical. Characters are not read exclusively by one person, and the men are less successful at getting the right tone for the female parts than Baker is when she reads men's parts. Her smart Southern belle voice for Carrie changes wonderfully into a gruff, bitter one to embody Zachariah Cashwell, a Confederate soldier Carrie falls in love with as she nurses him back to health. Extra tracks on the final disc includes an interview with Hicks on his inspiration and writing process; a computer program containing photos, artwork and archival material Hicks used; and an author's note that fills out more of the actual history. Even without accessing these enhancements, though, one quickly gets caught up listening to this sweeping novel.