A Separate Country
Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A SEPARATE COUNTRY is a novel based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army--and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. At the Battle of Chickamauga, his right leg was amputated. Starting fresh after the war, he married Anna Marie Hennen and fathered 11 children with her, including three sets of twins. But fate had other plans. Crippled by his war wounds and defeat, ravaged by financial misfortune, Hood had one last foe to battle: Yellow Fever.
A SEPARATE COUNTRY is the heartrending story of a decent and good man who struggled with his inability to admit his failures--and the story of those who taught him to love, and to be loved, and transformed him.
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Many a Confederate young man was slaughtered serving under General Hood in the last months of the Civil War. A combination of strategic mistakes, over-bearing ego, a climate of desperation and relentless bad luck combusted with disastrous consequences; the war was lost, soldiers were disillusioned, Southern gentry was shocked, and General Hood’s left arm and right leg were blown off and left to disintegrate on the field of battle.
A Separate Country is the story of General Hood’s acceptance, repentance, and reconciliation with these experiences.
The setting is New Orleans, 1879. General Hood’s wartime reputation was well known in the post war South, though he is never sure just how he will be received. He knows he dreads facing family members of the men he recklessly sent into ill-conceived battles. He composes his war memoirs in defense of himself and his decisions and sends them for publication. ||Anna Maria Hennen, a beautiful New Orleans aristocrat, is captivated by the General, woos and wins him, marries him, and bears 11 children during the course of their life together. This marriage, the new South, his children, his friendships, and time passing all contribute to General Hood’s commitment to re-writing his memoirs, this time telling the larger truths.
The story is told using these revised memoirs, placed side by side with journal entries and letters from Anna Marie. Thus, do we learn the individual stories of the General and Anna Marie, as well as the story of their marriage. We also meet Rintrah, Father Mike, Eli Griffin, and miscellaneous strange and wonderful Creole’s who participate in a story of mystery, menace and cruel mistakes.
The book is crafted by the sure hand of a seasoned historian who has previously demonstrated his knowledge of the Civil War era (
New York Times bestseller The Widow of the South). This new book is a satisfying story imbued with intrigue, romance, and redemption. The characters are unforgettable; haunted people in a steamy, mysterious and pestilent city, careening from pain to grace, and back again. Hicks (The Widow of the South, 2005) again draws upon real lives and the South’s traumatic past to create BOOKLIST REVIEW a powerful epic about how love and unselfish choices lead to personal transformations. Left maimed after the Civil War, Confederate general John Bell Hood relocated to Louisiana, where he wed a Creole beauty and fathered 11 children before sinking into poverty and succumbing to yellow fever in 1879. In this imagined version, he pens a secret memoir as proof he’s done penance for his many sins. His wife, Anna Marie, writes her own account of their unlikely marriage and her childhood friendships with three outcasts who influence them both in unforeseen ways. The couple’s overlapping stories, which bring their personalities into focus, unfold against a well-rendered backdrop showcasing New Orleans’ complicated racial divide and deadly fever season. Most compellingly, as we revisit key scenes from new angles, Hicks uncovers layers of detail about characters and events we naively thought we understood. A marvelous accomplishment, as beautifully written and heart-wrenching as its predecessor (to which it’s loosely connected). — Sarah Johnson, Booklist PUBLISHERS WEEKLY REVIEW Hicks follows his bestselling The Widow of the South with the grand, ripped-from-the-dusty-archives epic of Confederate general John Bell Hood. The story begins with Hood, on his deathbed with yellow fever, dispersing a stack of papers to former war nemesis Eli Griffin, urging him to publish the general's “secret memoir.” Hood's story picks up in 1878 as he, nearly broke, reflects on the past 10 years' dwindling fortunes. Now, with an artificial leg, a bum arm and nearly no money, he and his wife, Anna Marie, live in diminished circumstances in New Orleans. Over time, their once passionate relationship grows mundane as Hood “watched the years wrench devilry and lust and joy from her face.” Things are also complicated by the violent death of Anna Marie's best friend and the reappearance of former comrade Sebastien Lemerle, who holds a nasty secret he holds about Hood's past. Meanwhile, Hood's marriage and business failures pale in comparison to the yellow fever epidemic that decimates the area. Hicks's stunning narrative volleys between Hood, Anna Marie and Eli, each offering variety and texture to a story saturated in Southern gallantry and rich American history. - Publishers Weekly "Robert Hicks writes beautifully. His re-creation of New Orleans and its fatal beauty and the courage of its people is stunning. The narrator's voice has the historical authenticity of Ishmael's or Huck Finn's. As soon as you begin reading A Separate Country, the reader knows he's in the hands of a pro." -James Lee Burke, author of Swan Peak" Beautifully written and meticulously researched, A Separate Country brings the very separate country of late 19th century New Orleans to lush, amazing life. Hicks's novel is heartbreaking, tender, and seductive--just like the city in which it is set. I fell completely in love with these characters and I adore this book. A Separate Country is a richly imagined, redemptive tale of one of the Confederacy's most controversial generals. I couldn't put it down." -Julia Reed, author of The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story Robert Hicks has done it again! Like New Orleans, the past itself is always "another country," but Hicks transports us there with ease. Master of voice, character, and atmosphere, here is a born storyteller who has found an unforgettable story to tell. -Lee Smith, author of The Last GirlsRobert Hicks has written a searing tale of loss, love, struggle, and redemption. A Separate Country brims with wise and haunting wonder, proving once again that Hicks is a writer of abundant talent. -Connie May Fowler, author of The Problem with Murmur Lee and Before Women had Wings KIRKUS REVIEWS – JULY 1, 2009 A tale of mixed-up foolscap, dark secrets, a dwarf and a wharf. Tennessee-based Hicks, who debuted with a Civil War novel (The Widow of the South, 2005), ventures here into Reconstruction-era New Orleans. His hero is real-life Confederate warrior John Bell Hood (for whom the Texas fort is named), who settled after the Cause was Lost in New Orleans, where he had 11 children and otherwise kept busy. In Hicks’ tense and tasty account, one of Bell’s occupations is fending off the plague of unwanted characters who seek in one way or another to capitalize on his wartime renown. One is a mysterious chap named Sebastien Lemerle, a companion at arms from antebellum days. “In Texas I was young,” Hood remembers. “I wanted to fight. I wanted to fight Comanche. Sebastien Lemerle and his squad came with me.” For his sins, Hood gets his wish, and plenty more fights to boot. Somewhere along the way he also earns the continued attentions of Lemerle, who comes sniffing around Hood’s door all these years after the Civil War has ended. Not far behind is a “little man” named Rintrah who has his fingers in many a pie, as well as a priest decidedly not on priestly business and a few assorted members of the proto-KKK, to say nothing of the foppish Beauregard, gone from Civil War hero to New Orleans wheeler-dealer and publisher, in whose hands is a manuscript of Hood’s that Hood does not wish to be there. Thus the plot thickens, and Hicks spins a taut tale, told in many voices, of tangled webs, vengeance and other unfinished business. Expertly written, with plenty of unexpected twists—a pleasure for Civil War buffs, but also for fans of literary mysteries. -Kirkus Reviews “Robert Hicks wrote one of the first books I ever reviewed - Widow of the South. An excellent book that I still recommend if you haven't yet read it. He continues to bring great storytelling into his newest book, A Separate Country. ” - DewontheKudzu.net