In THE MATRIARCH OF RUINS (Book II of The Gettysburg Trilogy), a widow struggles to keep her family together amid the carnage of the Battle of Gettysburg. This is a story of ordinary folks caught in the maelstrom of an extraordinary time.
It is 1863 and the war has come home to the Gamble farm in Southern Pennsylvania. With her husband buried under the willow tree in the back yard, and only four months in the ground, the widow Purdy Gamble must cope with losing him all over again when a rebel surgeon conscripts her farm—and Purdy’s growing respect despite herself. Hannah Gamble Griel, Purdy’s daughter, disappears into the chaos of war to chase her own ghosts, both imaginary and real. And then there are the twins Loli and Coal, just fourteen. One, struck dumb by a mule kick at age five, will find a disturbing peace amid the flames of war. The other will twice save a man’s life, unburying a horrid family secret in the process—a secret at once as alive as warm flesh and as dead as cold bones mouldering under the earth.
THE MATRIARCH OF RUINS is a haunting story of lost love, moral dilemmas, and psychological traumas amid the ruins of war, by the author of NOT ONE AMONG THEM WHOLE (Book I of The Gettysburg Trilogy), which told the story of the surgeons at Gettysburg. This is a vivid, suspenseful tale, told with heart-breaking empathy and stunning detail.
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KIRKUS REVIEWS (2015)
The Matriarch of Ruins
A Civil War novel that follows the struggles of a family as their world crumbles around them.
Purdy Gamble’s husband is a soldier in the Union Army, and she hasn’t heard a word from him in about two years. She discovers that he’s been wounded and sets off to find him in a town named Falmouth. There, she encounters the collateral damage of war: a town besieged by poverty with a populace hobbled by fear and spiritual dissipation. She finds her husband, Enoch, in a makeshift hospital where the dead and the dying commingle in alarming proximity. He’s badly wounded, with one eye completely maimed. Soon after Purdy transports him to a place where he can get better medical attention, he dies. She returns home to care for her family—a disabled son and two daughters—on her own. Her oldest, a 19-year-old daughter, is still reeling from the loss of her infant son and the absence of her husband who’s away at war. A Confederate troop commandeers Purdy’s house against her will and transforms it into an improvised hospital; as a result, she has no choice but to bitterly cooperate with the people responsible for her husband’s death. Later, both her daughters must fend for themselves in a land grimly transformed into killing fields. This is the second installment in the Gettysburg Trilogy, and while there is some narrative continuity with the first, it can be read on its own. Author McDaniels (Not One Among Them Whole, 2013) has a remarkable talent for understated depictions of horror, letting the chilling facts speak for themselves: “On the Gamble farm, morning announced itself as the harsh screech of the surgeon’s saw against bone. It was an awful thing to hear, impossible to tune out.” Like its predecessor, the book explores the bottomless acrimony of the two warring sides and also mines rare opportunities for mutual respect and even affection. McDaniels also artfully captures the terrible juxtaposition of the battlefield and the homestead.
A dark, artistically rendered, and historically edifying tale.