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Historical Fiction Review     

 

Enemy Women
By Paulette Jiles
William Morrow, 2002
ISBN: 0-06-621444-0

 

 
 

The Colleys of southeastern Missouri have claimed neutrality in the War Between the States. As landowners, their only goal is maintain themselves and their farm through the battles surrounding them. When the Union Militia arrives, they set fire to the Colleys' house, drive young John Lee from the homestead, and drag Pa Colley away, bloodied and beaten. Adair, the oldest daughter is left to care for her two younger sisters. Seeing no one on the road leading away from what remains of their home, the sisters start off in search of a safe haven in the mountains.

Along the journey, a fellow traveler accuses Adair of "enemy collaboration." Unable to defend herself, she's arrested and taken to the women's prison in St. Louis. There she meets a Union soldier who, while interrogating her, finds himself falling in love and Adair admits his feelings are reciprocated. Before being reassigned, the major gives Adair the only gift he can, her freedom. Vowing to find her once the war ends, he allows her to escape as "an enemy woman" into the threatening territories.

Based on one of the less well-known chapters in America's Civil War, Jiles has created a Civil War novel worthy of standing alongside Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain and Howard Bahr's The Black Flower.

Paulette Jiles, who now lives in San Antonio with her husband, was born and reared in the Missouri Ozarks. Her previous books include North Spirit (1995) and Cousins (1992). The novelist and poet has a dual citizenship with Canada and is the past winner of the Canadian General Award, Canada's highest literary honor. Enemy Women is her first novel.

 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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