I have never read any of Kathy Hepinstall‘s other works, so I did not know what to expect from this collaboration with her sister Becky. I was interested in reading a book authored by two sisters, about two sisters, even though the Civil War is not one of my areas of interest.
“Sisters of Shiloh” is about two young women who for different reasons cut their hair, don men’s clothing, and get themselves installed in the Confederate Army by posing as boys who are not technically old enough to fight. The Army needs soldiers badly when they enlist, and the doctors doing the screenings have been unofficially instructed to pass even those who are clearly under 18.
The younger sister, Libby, is joining the war to avenge her late husband, as a last ditch effort to assuage the grief that threatens to cost Libby her sanity.
Josephine, the older sister, had no warm feelings for Libby’s husband, but involves herself in Libby’s scheme in order to protect her, knowing the fragile state Libby is in.
I am not fond of battle scenes, of which there are plenty, but the description in this book is well-executed–thorough without being overdone. There is an abundance of insects in the daily life of the sisters and their fellow soldiers. They are continually distracted by the presence of chiggers and lice. This and other physical discomforts are conveyed quite convincingly by the authors.
I think overall, the Hepinstall sisters have created a respectable novel together. I hesistate to be overly critical when reviewing, because I know how difficult it is to write a book. Even so, I was surprised and disappointed by the fact that I simply could not feel the bond that I was told existed between Libby and Josephine.
I could see Josephine’s protective instincts toward her younger sibling, but I felt no love coming from Libby, and none of that easy, almost telepathic communication between girls of a similar age who have been raised together. I have a sister, and I did not see any strong semblance of our relationship in this book.
There was a particular part of the book that annoyed me, at which point I felt as though the authors were trying to trick me. I did not appreciate that. I don’t want to reveal any plot details from far along into the book, but I will say that something was represented as having taken place, and then (a page or two later) shown to have not actually happened. Other readers might not be bothered by this technique, but it felt a bit like a cheap shot to me.
“Sisters of Shiloh” did touch lightly on issues of battle-induced PTSD, which was interesting and well-done. I was not sure that the authors were going to allow both of their main characters to heal and move forward with their lives, but I think most of the loose ends were suitably tied up, while leaving some room for imagination.
The concept of sisters posing as Confederate soldiers was a good one, and I think it was handled nicely. Those who are from the Southern U.S. or are interested in the area and its history may enjoy this more than I did.