-All I had known for certain when I came around the hen house that first evening in July and saw my husband trudging into the yard after lifetimes spent away from us, a borrowed bag in his hand and the shadow of grief on his face, was that he had to be protected at all costs from knowing what had happened in his absence. Read more...
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-All I had known for certain when I came around the hen house that first evening in July and saw my husband trudging into the yard after lifetimes spent away from us, a borrowed bag in his hand and the shadow of grief on his face, was that he had to be protected at all costs from knowing what had happened in his absence. I did not believe he could survive it.-
When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband's three-hundred-acre farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself living far from her family and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away?
Inspired by a true incident, this saga conjures the era with uncanny immediacy. Amid the desperation of wartime, Placidia sees the social order of her Southern homeland unravel as her views on race and family are transformed. A love story, a story of racial divide, and a story of the South as it fell in the war, The Second Mrs. Hockaday reveals how that generation--and the next--began to see their world anew.
- ISBN-13: 9781616205812
- ISBN-10: 1616205814
- Publisher: Algonquin Books
- Publish Date: January 2017
- Page Count: 272
- Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.8 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-10-03
- Reviewer: Staff
Based on true events, Riverss epistolary historical novel is a stirring Civil Warera version of The Scarlet Letter. Placidia Fincher is 17 when she marries Confederate Major Gryffth Hockaday in April 1863, after knowing him for just a handful of hours. Two days after their wedding, Gryffth is called to fight again, and he doesnt return from the war to his South Carolina farm for nearly two years. When he does, he discovers that during his absence, his wife had carried another mans child, who was born and died of mysterious causes right before Gryffths return. To protect the innocent parties close to her, Placidia refuses to give up any information about the incident, even after a heartbroken Gryffth orders a court hearing for infanticide. She bears all of the weight of this secret, until her diary falls into the wrong hands. Told through gripping, suspenseful letters, court documents, and diary entries, Riverss story spans three decades to show the rippling effects of buried secrets, when the Hockadays and future generations must learn to overcome the damage this secret and the war have done to all the families involved. Agent: Susan Ginsburg, Writers House. (Jan.)
A Civil War story of the ones left behind
It’s fitting for a Civil War-era story to be told in letters: The excruciating wait between each hoped-for missive is mirrored in this debut novel’s slow and gradual denouement. Author and playwright Susan Rivers employs not only letters, but also diary entries and inquest reports to tell a story loosely based in fact. In The Second Mrs. Hockaday, Placidia Fincher, young and newly wed to a major in the Confederate army, is jailed and accused of adultery and infanticide. Her husband has been away for two years, adding to the intrigue. Only Placidia and her few slaves, particularly one named Achilles, know what transpired.
As attested to in an author’s note, Rivers’ research has been thorough, and she writes convincingly in a mid 19th-century style and mindset. She is adept at creating arresting imagery and constructs a stark contrast between the life of privilege Placidia left and the life of struggle she comes to upon marrying the major, moving to his remote farm, and mothering Charlie, his son by his first wife. After only two days as husband and wife, the major is called back to the front, and his “fair girl” Placidia must run the farm and protect the homestead.
Passages relating to what Placidia and others suffer build slowly and unfold in painstaking detail, making them all the more appalling. The cruelty in a world besieged by war is hard to fully comprehend. Men fought on battlefields, but everyone at home was fighting, too—to survive. In The Second Mrs. Hockaday, Rivers gives readers an illuminating glimpse into a part of our country’s past that still has repercussions in the present.