by Robert Hicks
Grand Central Publishing, 2009
My Rating: A
Before I proceed any further I must tell you how beautiful the cover of this book is. The picture does not do it justice. The cover glows from the color of the dress. The letters for the title are raised and have gold inside the black outline. The author’s name is also raised. It’s a treat to both see and touch. Thank you to whomever is responsible.
A Separate Country is a fictional account of a real person, John Bell Hood. It’s not the story of his whole life but rather an account of his life after the Civil War. It’s also a love story between Hood and his wife, Anna Marie.
General Hood was a West Point graduate who served under Robert E. Lee in the Confederate Army. He suffered tremendous losses in the war. Many men serving under his command lost their lives and Hood lost the use of one arm and had one leg amputated.
After the war ended he went to New Orleans where he believed he could make his fortune. There he met and married Anna Marie and together they had eleven children (three sets of twins) in ten years.
As the story opens John is dying of yellow fever. He sends for a friend, Eli Griffin, and asks him to publish a secret memoir he has written. But first Eli must destroy another book, the “war book” that Hood spent ten years writing. Eli must also find another man and get him to agree to the contents of the secret memoir. Eli agrees to the dying man’s wishes.
The story is told from the perspective of three people: General Hood, via the secret memoir, Anna Marie’s diary/letters to her oldest daughter, and from Eli’s account of what happens as he is trying to fulfill the General’s dying wish. The story is complicated with lots of twists and turns. But the three voices come together nicely and it is easy to read.
I wish I had the right words to tell you how beautiful the writing is. Let me show you a little paragraph.
There was much to overcome. I was a streetcar man, cramped morning and night between broad shoulders. The city passed by cloudy windows, it was soft and beckoning. I knew it was neither, that it was hard as most places and perversely cruel, but it was also Anna Marie’s home, and when the facts of the city stand against the allure of that woman, I can’t count the smokers blowing their chocking, decomposing clouds into the air of the streetcar, or the flower sellers drumming their product without cease or subtlety, or the mumbling and lost people staring after us as we passed.
All together – a compelling story inside a gorgeous cover – make for a wonderful book package that will entertain you for hours.
Robert Hicks has quite the background. He was born and raised in South Florida but moved to Tennessee in the seventies. He is the author of the very successful The Widow of the South. He has also worked both as a music publisher and in artist management in both country and rock music. Hick’s interests remain broad and varied. A partner in the B. B. King’s Blues clubs in Nashville, Memphis and Los Angeles, Hicks serves as ‘Curator of Vibe’ of the corporation. For an excellent interview with the author, visit Blog Talk Radio HERE.
I’d like to thank Miriam Parker of Hachette Book Group for my copy of this book.
You can purchase A Separate Country at Amazon.