Finished April 26
Neverhome by Laird Hunt
This historical novel is full of surprises. The narrator is Ash Thompson. Ash's real name is Constance, and she has taken time to learn to move like a man and feel comfortable in men's clothing so that she can go and fight for the Union in the U.S. Civil War. Ash is more assertive, more robust, and more skilled at many tasks than her husband Bartholomew and she feels that one of them should go to represent their family. Her motives are more complex in reality and as the novel unfolds we begin to realize that Ash is not always telling us everything.
Ash makes a name for herself early by coming to the aid of a women in an immodest situation, earning herself the nickname of Gallant Ash. She is recognized for her shooting skills, and her strong work ethic. She recognizes others like herself along the way, and they recognize her in return, but all keep the secret. When she is placed in difficult situations, Ash is not above using her female identity to gain advantage, nor is she unwilling to switch back to male if that will further her own ends.
Besides the story itself, this book has underlying meanings, beginning with Ash's real name of Constance. Constance is the one thing she is not, but also the one thing she is.
She survives capture, accusations of treason and spying, imprisonment, being labelled a madwoman, being tortured, and being betrayed. She does not find war what she thought, but neither is home what she expects either.
The story has an element of reflection, as she looks back on her experience and tries to find meaning in it.