Going Home: A Novel of the Civil War is a bestselling novel by James D. Shipman. The novel is a fictionalized account of the life of James Forscythe, the Civil War veteran ancestor of the author.
I think a better title of this novel would be: Going Home: The Oppression Olympics of an Irish Lad.
This book is divided into two time periods. The first is the weeks directly after James Forsycthe is wounded on January 1, 1865 in the trenches in Petersburg. It specifically focuses on the "love affair" of his nurse and doctor, all that happens while he is comatose and they perform new controversial procedures on him to keep him alive after getting a chest wound. The "Love Affair" is in parenthesis because it never actually happened.
The second part is his life leading up to the moment of his wounding. A life that basically starts when his parents basically sell him due to his drunk father wracking up gambling debt while on the ship to America.
While the writing is ok, there's what I feel are a ton of problems with how this story is structured. For the first half of the book, the story jumps back and forth from 1865 to his growing up. But it isn't done evenly. One chapter will be in the present. Two or three will be in the past. Two will be set in the present. One will be set in the past. One will be set in the present, four in the past.
At roughly the midpoint, this format is completely abandoned to focus exclusively on our main characters past, clear up to his wounding and shooting past it to post-Petersburg. So why wasn't this book set chronological to begin with is not clear.
The characters are all two-dimensional. If there is any change to a character it's contrived and unnatural.
Our main character? He doesn't drink, doesn't smoke. Doesn't lose his temper except when it's justified. He works 16 hour days without complaint, gives generously even when he has nothing to give. Even when he does something that could be considered criminal, it's because other people have driven him to it. He's thrifty, everything he touch blooms, even in the height of the war people flock to him because of his magical touch.
Yet despite all this, nothing good happens to him. People always take advantage of him, his wife is a spoiled bear that spends all his hard saved money. People force him to work for free for years and years on end.
In essence, his only flaw has nothing to do with him. His flaw is other people. This book is a reason why I think people maybe shouldn't be the one to write the stories of their ancestors, because they idolize them to the point that they're unrealistic perfect.
The book is also exhaustantingly repetitive. The same plot points keep being repeated. The exact same sentences and lines are again and again repeated ad nauseum.
Yes, yes, I know: "You don't love me! You don't take care of me!" I get it: "He's a good man. It's not his fault. It's the drink. He's sick!" How many times do you need to remind me: "I'm a recent widow and he's a married man. He's not for you. This is the greatest of sins!"
Frankly, I have no idea how this book ever became a best seller.
I'd give it 2 out of 5.
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