Author and photographer Richard Snodgrass’s lush historical novel ACROSS THE RIVER is part of his series set in the fictional west Pennsylvania mill town of Furnass. This volume deals with Morgan’s Raiders in the Civil War, and their plan to convert Colin Lyle’s “road engines” into war machines.
Captain Judson Walker’s mission is to deliver engineer Jonathan Reid to Furnass, so he can build on the technology created by Colin Lyle of Furnass. Walker’s men will join them to transport the engines & Morgan will rendezvous with them. They’re posing as government agents on a secret mission. The two men don’t like each other, but they are bound by their loyalty to the Confederacy.
Walker is there to get the job done. Reid’s purpose is far grander. “Reid was very much aware that, if the Confederacy has any long-term hope of survival, it required men of quality and intelligence who understood all the changes that made up the modern world.”
Human complications raise the stakes. Colin is desperate for the commission — and for the recognition he believes his road engines deserve. Desperate enough to pretend to believe these Southern men in Yankee uniforms are on a Union government mission. Colin’s wife Libby, a South Carolinian by birth, is unhappy in her life and marriage, and drawn to the wounded Captain Walker. Walker’s tumultuous history with the ego-driven John Morgan, who married the woman Walker loved, influence some of Walker’s decisions.
The writing is beautiful. The complex characters, faced daily with choices between their deepest desires and their integrity, in the midst of war, make compelling reading. This book stands alone, while stoking the desire for rest of the books in the series. Although the sensory detail makes the setting immediate, sometimes there is too much backstory dumped in a clump rather than woven into the scene. Sometimes, characters’ interior meanderings are more than is needed in that moment, and slow down the narrative drive. The story unfolds slowly, even though action sequences are well rendered, but the ending feels abrupt in contrast to the rest of the piece.
For readers looking for complex characters set against the dramatic backdrop of the Civil War, Richard Snodgrass’s ACROSS THE RIVER is a beautiful historical novel that proves history is created and changed by individuals, not just events.
~Eva Schegulla for IndieReader