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Monday, June 8, 2009

The Month That Saved America


May's book selection for ChocLit Guild was April 1865: The Month That Saved America. Have I mentioned how much I adore my book club? We have read a stellar variety of books over the years. Many of the books I never would have read on my own, but became instant favorites, including Watership Down, Three Cups of Tea, What's So Amazing About Grace, and Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. (How's that for variety?)

April 1865 was immediately placed on my Books Every American Should Read list. Fabulous. Intelligent. Insightful. Jay Winik is a storytelling master in this work. It is all at once a crash course in the founding of our country, an overview of the Civil War (beginning to end), multiple biographies (Robert E. Lee, Grant, Sherman, Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, John Wilkes Booth, Thomas Jefferson, and many more), and a beacon of hope for our future... all anchored by the month of April, 1865.

pg. 379

Instead, April was that magic moment when these ideas joined together. Amid the long lists of heroic and historic actions for this country, April 1865 was incontestably one of America's finest hours: for it was not the deranged spirit of an assassin that defined the country at war's end, but the conciliatory spirit of leaders who led as much in peace as in war, warriors and politicians who, by their example, their exhortation, and their deeds, overcame their personal rancor, their heartache, and spoke as citizens of not two lands, but one, thereby bringing the country together. True, much hard work remained. But much, too, had already been accomplished.



Winik does not present a fairy tale, but, I believe, accurately portrays the atmosphere, the events, and the cast of characters with realistic, carefully researched details and magnificent insight. Utilizing his degree in international relations and experience and research in international conflicts, Winik contrasts the Civil War's ending with other civil wars around the globe, and throughout history. Our Civil War becomes a vivid miracle of reconciliation.

pg. 383

As Lincoln understood most poignantly, it is not merely how arms are taken up, and why, but equally how they are laid back down, and why. And what then follows.



One of my favorite moments of this book unfolds in the Epilogue: To Make a Nation. The author wells up a spring of hope in the reader with mysterious glimpses into the lives of unassuming citizens of our nation at the end of the Civil War. Citizens with names such as Remington, Carnegie, Woolworth, and Ford. A veritable world of possibility.

Read this book. And don't miss Uncle Tom's Cabin and To Kill a Mockingbird if you're making a list....

11 comments:

KIN said...

I have been reading your blog for a couple months now and am really enjoying it. :) I've got several wall art projects bookmarked and now I've got a book list started. Thanks!

A Mac and a Mug O' Joe said...

Thanks! This will make a great Father's Day gift for my Hubby!

Chelsea M said...

Well, I've added this book and about forty others from the ChocLit Guild's list to my book list. Can you recommend some good mysteries and biographies? Those are such vast categories that I'm a bit stuck without suggestions. Thanks!

Chelsea M said...

PS. Just finished Three Cups of Tea and LOVED it. Such an interesting story and different perspective.

Heidi said...

Chelsea~ I can give you a few... Mystery: If you like classics with a hint of gothic flavor, I'd highly recommend The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I was hooked by the first page and couldn't put it down. If you want something slightly lighter with a little more humor, I loved Moonstone by the same author. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and others by Agatha Christie. Clouds of Witness and others by Dorothy Sayers. For biography... I read Me: Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn and thought it was fascinating. This year I have Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis, My Life in France (Julia Child), and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (Bill Bryson) on my list. I also have biographies about Thomas Jefferson and William Randolph Hearst on my to-read list. Does that help at all?

I get so excited when people enjoy my book lists. :)

Holly said...

Heidi, that quote from pg. 379 is exactly the one I underlined today and the one I thought captured the feeling of this book. And I just told mom today that this book should be read by every American, along with Uncle Tom's Cabin. I'm so glad I read it.

Lisa said...

I'll be adding this book to my list. Uncle Tom's Cabin & To Kill a Mockingbird are 2 of my favorite books! Thanks for posting reviews and lists of your reading. I am getting so many ideas!

Lisa said...

Just a side note....I am just finishing The Journal of Helene Berr. Helene was a jewish lady who lived in Paris when Germany invaded. She was in her twenties and had recently graduated from the Sorbonne. She began keeping the journal in 1942 to record all that she was seeing, hearing and feeling during the occupation. I've read many accounts of life under German rule, but this book is by far one of the best. If you like this sort of book, I highly recommend it.

Laurel said...

This will go on my list!

Saw the ref. to Woman in White. Have you read The Thirteenth Tale? Contemporary but has the gothic feel going - really enjoyed it.

Heidi said...

Laurel~ I did read the 13th Tale. It was very well-written and engrossing. While I enjoyed parts of it, I was really not at a place in my life when I should have been reading something that dark. The sexuality/sadism/masochism was a little much for me. I don't think I would necessarily have done much better reading The Woman in White at that time, either, though.

Seth said...

Looks like one I'll have to add to my "I've always wanted to read it but didn't know until now" list. I like well done history.

BTW, scanning your list of books to read, let me give Speaker for the Dead a shout-out. It's my current favorite book. Very different from Ender's Game. Deeper and more adult. I haven't read it this year...must do that.