In his ambitious debut novel Robert Hicks re-creates a particularly gruesome moment of Civil War history: the bloody battle waged by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest on land owned by Carrie McGavock in Franklin, Tenn. Hicks recounts the horrors McGavock faces when her home becomes a field hospital for a vast number of wounded soldiers and her backyard a cemetery for the more than 9,000 dead.
Despite being overwritten in places, the novel contains passages of lyrical beauty and arresting images as well as a compelling story line. The most notable weakness is the relentlessly shifting narrative voice, switching each chapter among first-person narrators, with third-person narration along the way. The continuously jumping point of view can feel distracting, creating a literary effect not unlike the misuse of a handheld camera in filmmaking, drawing attention away from the story. Still, the lasting memory is the sweep and grandeur of Hicks's historical tapestry.