Siblings Shelley and Benjamin Rourke are given a unique opportunity to restore two Civil War era properties with financial help from their grandmother as part of their inheritance. The abandoned Gettysburg house and a sprawling farm are both a massive undertaking, and the siblings are hesitant for their own reasons. But once the house shows signs of paranormal activity, and Benjamin is tormented by a recurring nightmare of being shot as a Union soldier, the two realize there’s more to the properties than they could’ve ever imagined. Curious to solve a centuries-old mystery, they dig into the past to find the tragic story of Summer Walker, a civilian whose fate in the war was left unsolved. Unraveling this story forces the siblings to discover their own connection to the history, which might be the key to helping Summer’s ghost finally find peace.
Evelyn Landane’s SUMMER IN GETTYSBURG is a fast-paced read that whisks the reader from present day Gettysburg to the same place in the past, where the bloody, three day battle is told through the perspectives of civilians who stayed behind. An intense, emotional account of the infamous battle known for its high amount of casualties, the narrative makes the history compelling but also personal. Said to be one of the most haunted places in America, it becomes the backdrop for a paranormal mystery, but also an intriguing tale of past lives and how they might shape future ones. Just a teenager when the Civil War breaks out and invades her doorstep, Summer Walker’s struggles as a young woman in polite society are heartfelt, relatable, and ultimately tragic. She’s a headstrong woman who feels distant from the social graces and gender roles of her time, a teenager with notions of romantic love and independence. It’s her voice—honest, compassionate, conflicted, and at times naïve—that connects the past to the present.
SUMMER IN GETTYSBURG also boasts a large cast, from Summer’s family members, potential suitors, and acquaintances on both sides of the conflict. Attention is also paid not just to Summer’s well-to-do family, but also to the dangers faced by free Black people who have the threat of capture looming over them. Meticulously researched, the historical details of the era and the battle strategies used by both sides come to life through the pages. Summer’s story is captivating enough to carry most of the novel, though the narrative feels uneven. Instead of weaving past between present at regular intervals, Shelley and Benjamin’s part in the story bookends Summer’s. They’re both interesting, flawed characters in their own right, it’s just that their part is rushed through. More time with them might’ve made their connection to the past stronger and emotionally stirring. Learning the twists and secrets before either of them put the pieces together so late in the novel drains it of its intended suspense.
Evelyn Landane’s SUMMER IN GETTYSBURG is told with easily readable prose, an enjoyable pace, and a light paranormal twist on an interesting historical mystery.
~Jessica Thomas for IndieReader