Wow - what a great book. I always knew I loved historical novels, but this one was dynamite. I picked it up at random, enticed by the ragged boy on the cover, his grave and terrible gaze.
There's a lot of truth in this book - which is also a running theme - the idea of truth being what it is only because it's the last thing left when you throw off everything you know is crap.
This true story was relayed by Joan Brady, granddaughter of Jonathan Carrick, who is the main character of this book.
Realizing that she knew very little about her grandfather, who she had never known, but who had always seemed detached, stoic, and fearsome, Joan visits her ancient dying uncle and finds out more about her family history than she ever wanted to know. She writes about them beautifully, incorporating past into present, explaining her family history intimately and without inhibition.
There are gruesome facts within this book - realities that our forefathers lived with - but didn't write in the history books. I was simultaneously repulsed and astounded by the barbarism that is so well illustrated within.
Pick this one up if you thought you knew everything there was to know about 19th Century America.