Title: A River Between Us
Author: Jocelyn Green
Major Themes: US Civil War, Romance, Forgiveness
Synopsis: When Cora Mae Stewart’s world collapses after Sherman’s soldiers take her and other Georgian mill hands captive, she must trust the Lord and do what she can to follow Him as she tries to figure out how to get home again.
I’ve been a fan of Jocelyn Green’s books for years now. The first book I read by her was Between Two Shores, a book I still think about occasionally. It was well done, memorable, and featured a piece of history I didn’t know about before picking up that book—an event I’ll likely never forget now, after reading that story! She has a way of bringing history to life, so when I saw that A River Between Us was going to be released, I knew I wanted to read it, too. I figured it would probably be a Civil War romance—and in that, I wasn’t wrong—but it was so much more than that, too, and if I had the time and was able to, I would have read this book in one sitting. I enjoyed it that much.
The world Cora Mae Stewart has known all her life is destroyed when Union soldiers ride into her town and burn down the cotton mill where she and her family have always found work. Even worse than that, however, is when she and the other mill hands are removed from their homes and families and sent away. Branded a traitor to the Union, Cora Mae struggles to know how to respond—and how to care for a little girl who quickly becomes almost a daughter in their imprisonment.
Union Sergeant Ethan Howard is sure he doesn’t have long to live. With a background in working in a coal mine in Indiana, he is certain he has black lung—the same thing that killed his father. When he meets Cora Mae, he begins to wonder if the Lord doesn’t have a plan in all of this—but he’s the one who arrested her and the other girls and is sending her away from her ailing mother to a place she doesn’t want to go. When it comes down to him being the only man who can help Cora Mae get back to her mother safely, the question remains: Can she forgive him enough to let him help her?
A River Between Us might be one of my favorite Civil War novels so far. When I first started reading it, I was delighted to recognize part of the history described here. While in school, I read Turn Homeward, Hannalee, which is about the cotton mills being shut down by General Sherman in order to halt supplies to the Confederate army. While both books tell the same general history, they’re also quite different, which is to be expected. I enjoyed the parts of history that came through these pages, and found the author’s note at the end intriguing.
I think one of the things I loved most about this story was the way Cora Mae tried to honor the Lord and heed the advice her mother gave her before she left: “Love your enemies.” It was encouraging to watch her try to live that advice out—even when it was incredibly difficult to do so.
If you enjoy historical fiction with a dash of sweet romance and a good dose of faith, A River Between Us could be an excellent option. I was intrigued by the way Sherman’s army—and especially his hospital camps—were brought to life, and I also appreciated the focus on family loyalty and care that came through. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and can’t wait to see what new stories Jocelyn Green might come out with next!
I was given a complimentary copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: Cursing is used in ch. 2; cussed and dagnabit are used in ch. 3; cursed is used in ch. 4 and 21; “what in tarnation” is used in ch. 5 and 32; blasted and “heaven help me” are used in ch. 6; “devil Yankee” is used in ch. 7 and 9; “merciful heavens” is used in ch. 11 and 12; “Oh God” is used in ch. 11 and 12; blast is used twice in ch. 13; “Oh, for the love of God!” is used in ch. 14; people are referred to as devils, “by God”, and “sons of guns” are used in ch. 30; “what the devil” is used in ch. 31; and “my lands” is used in ch. 31. There is lying in ch. 17.
A soldier makes a crass joke about girls in ch. 2, and drunk soldiers storm and start manhandling girls in ch. 3. A man admires a woman’s face in ch. 4. Several times, an unmarried couple sit together alone after dark. A man studies a woman’s figure when he shouldn’t have in ch. 7. Someone suggests someone had a child out of wedlock in ch. 16. In ch. 22, a woman thinks about how she fell in love with a married man for a brief time and almost ran away with him. A man tries to force himself on a woman in ch. 24. Someone says, “Young ‘uns ain’t for pleasure … They’re the natural result of two bodies coming together.” in ch. 32. An unmarried couple touches in ch. 3, 4, 5, 6, 12, 18, 19, 21, 25, 26, and 29 (alone at night together, but they realize they have to be extra-careful when together to not let themselves do the wrong thing). An unmarried couple kisses in ch. 9 and 33.
Occasionally, there are mentions of family members killed while away at war. A man’s hand gets bitten in ch. 5. Men torment a dog in ch. 7, and it is accidentally blinded in one eye. A man tells about a nightmare he had of being killed in fighting in ch. 8. Soldiers are drunk in ch. 10, and a man is shot and injured. A man’s injuries are described somewhat in ch. 11. Several times, from ch. 11 – 13, amputations are described. A man grabs a woman and there is a shot in ch. 13. A man is drunk and threatens to shoot someone in ch. 26. People are caught on the battlefield in ch. 28, and someone remembers seeing a dead person in ch. 29. There is an injured boy in ch. 30. There is shooting and a man is killed in ch. 31. In ch. 21, someone thinks about soldiers who died: “He knew [they] had gone on to a better place.”
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults