Winter 1859: While exploring the frozen expanse of Lake Champlain, Isabel "Bel" Lindsey and her cousin Laurence hear a hoarse voice call out to them, the voice of a runaway slave.
The teenage children of wealthy Vermont lumber barons, Bel and Laurence decide to hide and aid the runaway. The choice catapults them from their sheltered upbringing into the central issue of their time: slavery and the future of the Union. Wilderness Run recounts their coming of age as it follows America's own loss of innocence after entering the Civil War.
Two years pass and Laurence is a soldier fighting in some of the war's bloodiest battles, while Bel, in the confines of her father's mansion, begins to fall for her French-Canadian tutor, Louis Pacquette--only to see him enlist for the Union. As Laurence and Louis become friends and serve in the same brigade, Bel starts to unravel a painful family secret. The history of family and nation come together when Bel goes to serve as a nurse in Washington, D.C., and after the terrible fires of the Battle of the Wilderness, reunites with the two men who love her.
Featuring vivid characters and visceral war scenes balanced by intimate portraits of domestic life, Wilderness Run is a powerful debut by gifted young writer Maria Hummel.
The horrors of the Civil War are the crucible of romance for two Vermont cousins in Hummel's debut, which is gracefully and evocatively written but hobbled somewhat by a plot that features several war-novel clich s. The book begins when 12-year-old Isabel Lindsey and her 17-year-old cousin Laurence encounter a runaway slave and try to save the man despite the objections of Isabel's father. The tragic outcome triggers a crisis of conscience for Laurence that leads him to enlist in the Army of the Potomac. His stint in uniform cures him of his rich-boy sense of privilege, exposing him to the nightmare of battle and forcing him to struggle to gain the acceptance of the men in his regiment. While Laurence is coming into his manhood as a soldier, the smart, independent Isabel finds herself challenged by her attraction to her French tutor, a Canadian named Louis Pacquette, who changes his neutral stance toward the war and enlists. Their relationship turns triangular when Laurence returns to Vermont after a minor injury in battle and finds that he has feelings for Isabel. Hummel creates solid characters while capturing the day-to-day reality of military life during the Civil War, and her well-paced, elegant prose turns especially poignant at the end when Laurence is gravely wounded and saved by Pacquette at Chancellorsville. Sending a young rich man to war is a time-worn plot device, but Hummel is a solid writer who inserts enough intriguing turns in her narrative to keep things interesting.