Thursday, February 21, 2013

Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Read: February 15, 2013

1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over. Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read, cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them. Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will challenge Reed and Belle's courage and dreams as they forge a new beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance.


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Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Carving in Atlanta
Where to start in reviewing Holly Bush's Reconstructing Jackson presents me something of a challenge. It is a fabulous book, solidly constructed and well-written, but it is the material itself that made an impression on me.

This is the kind of book that will ruffle feathers, first and foremost because Bush wasn't afraid to use historically appropriate language. I realize some readers find certain terminology offensive, but in context I always appreciate those who can recreate a time and culture without imposing modern ideology on their characters. The ability to do this as convincingly as Bush does is a hallmark of great historic fiction writers.  

Reconstructing Jackson also touches on some intense subject matter: lynchings, murder, slavery, racism, child abduction... Again I was struck by how open Bush was to tackling such controversial material. These difficult and ugly concepts are central to her story, but she explores each, sometimes from surprising angles, forcing her readers to see and understand the prejudice and turbulence that characterized America after the Civil War. 

Then of course we come to Reed. My favorite aspect of the book, he is a man who stands upon his principles. Through him, Bush recreates the same sense of honor that led Robert E. Lee to refuse President Lincoln and take up arms for Davis. This isn't Atticus Finch, the reader isn't predisposed to like or appreciate what Reed does or how he thinks. No. Bush asks her audience, challenges them, dares them to look deeper to understand her character's foundations and the convictions that led him to wear gray in one of our nations darkest hours.

I admit I am hesitant to read civil war fiction. Please excuse the pun, but I find most of it written in black and white when I know the truth is convoluted and penned in shades of gray. The courage Bush exhibits in creating a book that approaches these subjects without bias, offers such compelling characters as Reed, Belle and Beulah, combined with her obvious love and gift for storytelling make Reconstructing Jackson a remarkable and highly recommended piece of literature.

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His honor required him to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. Reed had taken an oath to do just that with his hand on a Bible in the law office of the man who’d he’d apprenticed under and he meant every word... but his first real opportunity to fulfill that oath came in the form of defending the worst kind of lazy, violent, purposefully stupid, ignorant cracker that this country could produce. There was enough irony to make a man laugh. But Reed was not laughing. 
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Check out all the stops on the historical fiction virtual book tour of Holly Bush's Romancing Olive & Reconstructing Jackson. 


Monday, February 18
Review at nomadreader (Romancing Olive)
Giveaway at History Undressed
Tuesday, February 19
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee (Romancing Olive)
Wednesday, February 20
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair (Romancing Olive)
Thursday, February 21
Review at Flashlight Commentary (Reconstructing Jackson)
Friday, February 22
Review at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader (Reconstructing Jackson)
Giveaway at A Writer’s Life: Working with the Muse
Monday, February 25
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time (Romancing Olive)
Review & Giveaway at The Life and Times of a Book Addict (Romancing Olive)
Tuesday, February 26
Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Wednesday, February 27
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie (Reconstructing Jackson)
Thursday, February 28
Review at Book Drunkard (Reconstructing Jackson)
Friday, March 1
Interview at Tribute Books
Monday, March 4
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books (Romancing Olive)
Tuesday, March 5
Review at Raging Bibliomania (Reconstructing Jackson)
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks (Romancing Olive)
Wednesday, March 6
Giveaway at Layered Pages
Thursday, March 7
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books (Reconstructing Jackson)
Friday, March 8
Review at Raging Bibliomania (Romancing Olive)
Review at The Novel Life (Romancing Olive)
Monday, March 11
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks (Reconstructing Jackson)
Review at Books in the Burbs (Romancing Olive)
Interview & Giveaway at The Novel Life (Romancing Olive)
Tuesday, March 12
Review at Books in the Burbs (Reconstructing Jackson)


5 comments:

Holly said...

Thank you Erin for the great review. I hope your followers enjoy it too. Holly

Marg said...

I think Reed was my favourite aspect of this book too. I appreciated that Holly Bush was brave enough to keep that historical language. I am not sure that she would have been able to do it as much if the book had been traditionally published.

The Flashlight Reader said...

You're welcome Holly. :)

I agree Marg and the sad thing is I know there are readers who wont look beyond it.

Holly said...

Truthfully ladies, I wouldn't know how to write this story without the language I used. I'm afraid I'll never get a traditional publisher and self-publishing has a real stigma attached but I didn't think there was any other way to get my stories out there for readers. So . . . I've been fortunate enough to get some wonderful reviews from folks like you and I'm hoping readers will find me!

The Flashlight Reader said...

It wouldn't be the same story without the language or complex racial topics you incorporated into the plot. The book makes you think and is loyal to the time period. I wish more publishers would give material like this a shot.

Truthfully I didn't even realize the book was self published until I was writing my review. I wouldn't worry about the stigma. Publishers and readers are realizing it doesn't apply anymore.