The Second Mrs. Hockaday

second-mrs-hBy Susan Rivers

When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband’s three-hundred-acre farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself living far from her family and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away? To what extremes can war and violence push a woman who is left to fend for herself?

Told through letters, court inquests, and journal entries, this saga, inspired by a true incident, unfolds with gripping intensity, conjuring the era with uncanny immediacy. Amid the desperation of wartime, Placidia sees the social order of her Southern homeland unravel. As she comes to understand how her own history is linked to one runaway slave, her perspective on race and family are upended. A love story, a story of racial divide, and a story of the South as it fell in the war,The Second Mrs. Hockaday reveals how this generation—and the next—began to see their world anew.

This is one of those books that progresses so seamlessly that you marvel at the authenticity of it. In fact, Susan Rivers has said that the novel was inspired by her discovery of a mysterious crime in South Carolina during the Civil War, and she wrote her novel to make sense of it; once she started writing, the story poured out through these myriad voices. But because Rivers is also a meticulous researcher, every part of the story has some basis in fact. As in Hillary Jordan’sMudbound, you will feel that you’re in the hands of a natural storyteller who knows how to breathe life into this period of history, the young Placidia, and all of the people around her. This is a remarkable, moving, and unforgettable debut.

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