Published by Koehler Books on September 1st 2013
In the spring of 1927, ambitious cub reporter Calvin Hogue covers a family reunion in the Florida Panhandle. He learns two Malburn brothers fought on opposing sides during the Civil War, and encourages them to tell their stories. Before the night is over, Calvin realizes he has a far greater story than a run-of-the-mill family reunion.
Thus begins the first of many sessions with the Malburn brothers. The saga unfolds in their own words with wit, wisdom and sometimes, sadness. Before long the brothers are confronting troubled pasts and conjuring up ghosts laid buried throughout the long post-war years. Calvin is swept along by the harrowing eyewitness account of our nation’s most trying era, through bloody battles, personal trials and losses, and the mutual love of a beautiful young woman.
Book One follows the exploits of Daniel Malburn and the 6th FL Infantry through the battles of Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain/Missionary Ridge. While working at the salt works along St. Andrew Bay, Elijah is taken prisoner by Union forces. Faced with imprisonment, he reluctantly chooses to join the 2nd US FL Cavalry as a scout, only to learn he must lead a destructive raid on the Econfina Valley—his lifelong home.
Book Two, the sequel to Of Blood and Brothers, will be released in March of 2014. The story of the Malburn brothers, Daniel and Elijah, picks up where Book One in the series ends. The South surrenders, but the peace is far from won. Trouble stalks the Malburns in post-war Florida. Amid the violent days of Reconstruction, Daniel and Elijah face continuing conflict, family turmoil and heart-wrenching tragedy as they struggle toward a hard-earned and costly reconciliation.
This really caught me off guard! I was really curious about the idea of the story being about two brothers on opposing sides. The fact that this is during a major war in the US didn’t really appeal to me in thought but while reading I was struck with awe at how massively appalling and yet still totally appealing this was.
What I really liked: The realness to it. There is blood and guts everywhere! I don’t know what I was imagining when I first heard of this but for some reason THIS was not it. E. Michael Helms is able to bring the war to your brain even when you’re aware of blood and guts and read about zombies nearly every day, he was able to make this so much more real. The images came alive… and I’m here to tell you that some of them should stay buried! But it was a thrilling and very engaging read.
What I didn’t love: The accent. I guess it is up to an author and what they really want the character to sound like and these boys are both southerners from over 100 years ago. They should sound like that but it sometimes made me pause in my reading. Or I would have to go backwards to understand something. Although I totally had no idea pshaw was really a word and they use it!
Not being a history buff I really thought I may not get into this but I’m so glad I did. Yes, it’s about the war but more importantly it’s about the men who fought in the war and why they did what they did… in short: thrilling and amazing. I hope I never have to go through what these men had to go through!