Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy Hepinstall & Becky Hepinstall Hilliker

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 
Obtained from: Netgalley/Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Read: January 20, 2015

A best-selling novelist enlists her own sister to bring us the story of two Southern sisters, disguised as men, who join the Confederate Army—one seeking vengeance on the battlefield, the other finding love. In a war pitting brother against brother, two sisters choose their own battle. Joseph and Thomas are fresh recruits for the Confederate Army, daring to join the wild fray that has become the seemingly endless Civil War, sharing everything with their fellow soldiers—except the secret that would mean their undoing: they are sisters. Before the war, Joseph and Thomas were Josephine and Libby. But that bloodiest battle, Antietam, leaves Libby to find her husband, Arden, dead. She vows vengeance, dons Arden’s clothes, and sneaks off to enlist with the Stonewall Brigade, swearing to kill one Yankee for every year of his too-short life. Desperate to protect her grief-crazed sister, Josephine insists on joining her. Surrounded by flying bullets, deprivation, and illness, the sisters are found by other dangers: Libby is hurtling toward madness, haunted and urged on by her husband’s ghost; Josephine is falling in love with a fellow soldier. She lives in fear both of revealing their disguise and of losing her first love before she can make her heart known to him. In her trademark “vibrant” (Washington Post Book World) and “luscious” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) prose, Kathy Hepinstall joins with her sister Becky to show us the hopes of love and war, the impossible-to-sever bonds of sisterhood, and how what matters most can both hurt us and heal us.

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Curiosity may have killed the cat, but I suffered no such fate when I accepted Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy Hepinstall and Becky Hepinstall Hilliker for review. Fictional accounts of the American Civil War are hit and miss in my book so I wasn't expecting much from the title, but I liked the idea of women in war and was interested to see an account of their role on the battlefield so I threw caution to the wind, tried my luck and was thoroughly enthralled with what I discovered between these pages. 

The material Hepinstall and Hilliker work into this story is absolutely amazing. I don't mean to gush, but there are scenes in this book that literally caused me to pause in awe. Libby's encounter with a young boy who suffered an amputation and talks of his phantom limb through the pain struck a chord so deep I had to come up for air afterward. The authenticity of the moment, the courage the authors exhibited in putting such a scene to paper, everything about it felt right. There are similar moments throughout the narrative - the trial of Corporal Thadeus Grant, the incident with Private Abraham, the discovery of Matthew's letters, Floyd's saving Wesley's guitar - Hepinstall and Hilliker pair human emotion with the trial and tribulation of life at the front without filter. It is realistic and as a student of the conflict, I couldn't help but be impressed. 

From a more artistic standpoint, I loved how Hepinstall and Hilliker handled the relationship between Josephine and Libby. It is a complex connection to say the least, but I thought the illustration of their bond very well-done. I also liked the slow development of Libby's madness, her conversations with Arden, and how her desire for revenge alters the reader's perception of both sisters over the course of the story. 

All told, I enjoyed the diversity in both the cast and themes in Sisters of Shiloh. I was fascinated with the research that went into the novel and tickled by the authors' nod to Victor Hugo's Les MiserablesHighly recommended to fans of historic fiction and civil war buffs alike. 

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Grief, he thought, would have an ending, but it was a black cat that ran across life, through good conversations and orange firelight and endless drills. It sat on his shoulders and made his knees creek when he stood up. It balanced in the crook of his arm as he cleaned his rifle. And he could not banish it; it was loyal as a dog.
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Check Out All the Stops on Kathy Hepinstall & Becky Hepinstall Hilliker's Sisters of Shiloh Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, March 3
Review & Giveaway at The Book Binder’s Daughter
Wednesday, March 4
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, March 5
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Review & Giveaway at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, March 6
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Saturday, March 7
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Monday, March 9
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, March 10
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation
Review & Interview at Books and Benches
Spotlight at Layered Pages
Wednesday, March 11
Review at Beth’s Book Nook
Thursday, March 12
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation
Interview & Giveaway at Forever Ashley
Friday, March 13
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Monday, March 16
Guest Post & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf

1 comment:

Colleen Turner said...

Great review! I loved this one too.