Every once in a while, you come across an epic book whose story is so captivating that it impacts your outlook on life and your attitude toward others. What if your actions, even in a small way, could change someone’s world for the better? That is the question The Sentinels of Andersonville explores.
The Sentinels of Andersonville, the latest historical novel by Tracy Groot, is an exciting retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan through events surrounding Andersonville Prison toward the end of the Civil War. A Confederate prison in Sumter County, Georgia, Andersonville Prison held tens of thousands of Union soldiers in appalling unsanitary conditions for several months. Through the eyes of various characters, The Sentinels of Andersonville sheds light on the conditions of the prison and its captives while emphasizing the importance of caring for your neighbor.
Confederate Corporal Emery Jones captures and leads Union soldier Lew Gann to Andersonville Prison. Through days of travel, Lew and Emery form a camaraderie and bond of friendship which transcends their Union and Confederate heritages. Upon seeing the state of the prison and its prisoners, Emery vows to help Lew escape and return to his wife and children – even if it costs him his life. Meanwhile, Lew struggles to survive the destitute conditions of the prison and maintain a stable frame of mind.
Dance Pickett, educated at the University of Georgia, is posted as a Confederate sentry guarding the stockade wall of Andersonville. Dance witnesses the desperate circumstances of the captives but is powerless to help them. His prestigious lawyer father has connections to the Georgia Governor, but his attempts to contact him and plead for assistance have failed thus far. With the arrival Corporal Emery Jones, Dance becomes involved in events which could mean new hope for the destitute prisoners.
The Stiles family lives in nearby Americus, Georgia. Dr. Norton Stiles is no stranger to the conditions of Andersonville, 10 miles away. He helps each week at the prison infirmary and has done his part to obtain help for the prisoners and smuggle them food. Violet Stiles, oldest of the Stiles daughters, has long been shielded from the mayhem of Andersonville Prison by her father. She reacts with shock and concern after glimpsing the prison conditions. Her ensuing campaigns to assist the prisoners and collect food for them cause doubts and rumors to spread of her family’s Union sympathies. As Emery, Dance, and Violet join forces to fight for the atrocious conditions of the prison to be remedied, they encounter resistance and turmoil within their own community of Americus. Murmurs of the Stiles and their friends being traitors or spies circulate the community and catch the attention of detectives and the Prison General. This sets off a chain of events which cannot be reversed.
The story flows seamlessly while multiple characters’ viewpoints are expressed to enrich the story. The characters experience the reluctance and doubt of their own neighbors in Americus, though a few citizens are sympathetic. They turn to the Scriptures for reassurance and guidance in helping those in need. Each character strives to find his or her own place in society and role in the world.
The themes of the novel include the true meaning of sacrifice and the difference one person can make when he or she decides to take action. Through skilled storytelling and prose, Tracy Groot weaves accurate historical details and events with fictional characters to create a captivating novel which encourages the reader to consider the plights of his or her neighbors.
The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot releases February 1 from Tyndale House Publishers.
Thank you to the publisher for providing a complementary advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
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