Book: The Second Mrs. Hockaday
Author: Susan Rivers
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: January 10, 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction, General Fiction, Historical Fiction

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4 stars out of 5

The Summary

Set during the American Civil War, The Second Mrs. Hockaday follows the story of Placidia, a young woman charged with murdering her own child–and an illegitimate child at that! Married to her husband for only two days before he is called back to battle, Placidia has to keep his farm running with the help of only a few servants. Told through letters, diary entries, and reports, Placidia’s story is charged with emotion, questions about what actually happened, and a wonder at the terrible circumstances that war brings on both those on the battlefield and those fighting at home.

The Review

Susan Rivers has written an engaging, lively, heart-wrenching story  This is a story of the reaches a woman will go to survive and to protect those she loves.

This book was lovely. Emotional and full of difficult things to process, but written so beautifully and so completely in character that it was impossible to put down.

Reading a story unfold through letters allows you, as the reader, to be pulled along with each character as they strive to discover their own story. It was incredibly interesting to read through the letters of different characters during different times.  Unlike other point of views, the first person letter writing point of view challenges both the writer and the reader to understand where each character is coming from and what information they have access too. So much is unknown. And yet, I felt a deep connection to each character by reading their letters and diary entries.

Rivers knows her stuff and has shown it with overwhelming accuracy to historical records and events. As a Canadian with little knowledge of the ins and outs of the American Civil War, I felt a little overwhelmed with the names and events that Rivers wove into the narrative. But it never once felt forced. The people and battles mentioned flowed seamlessly into to the narrative and felt authentic.

I sped through this book in only three days and was so absorbed, I didn’t write any notes! If you like a good historical fiction with a mystery and a drop of romance, try this one out!

Synopsis from Goodreads

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.

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