Near the end of the Civil War, inhumane conditions at Andersonville Prison caused the deaths of 13,000 Union soldiers in only one year. In this gripping and affecting novel, three young Confederates and an entire town come face-to-face with the prison’s atrocities and will learn the cost of compassion, when withheld and when given.
Sentry Dance Pickett has watched, helpless, for months as conditions in the camp worsen by the day. He knows any mercy will be seen as treason. Southern belle Violet Stiles cannot believe the good folk of Americus would knowingly condone such barbarism, despite the losses they’ve suffered. When her goodwill campaign stirs up accusations of Union sympathies and endangers her family, however, she realizes she must tread carefully. Confederate corporal Emery Jones didn’t expect to find camaraderie with the Union prisoner he escorted to Andersonville. But the soldier’s wit and integrity strike a chord in Emery. How could this man be an enemy? Emery vows that their unlikely friendship will survive the war—little knowing what that promise will cost him.
As these three young Rebels cross paths, Emery leads Dance and Violet to a daring act that could hang them for treason. Wrestling with God’s harsh truth, they must decide, once and for all, Who is my neighbor?
Prior to reading this book, I was familiar with Andersonville only as being the name of a Confederate prison during the Civil War. One of my favorite things about reading historical fiction is that I learn a bit about history that I didn’t know before. On rare occasions, a book is so well-researched and presents historical information in such an intriguing way that I feel compelled to read more books on the subject. That is what happened while reading The Sentinels of Andersonville.
I already knew I enjoyed Groot’s writing style because I really enjoyed her book Flames of Resistance, but I do think this one is even better. Everything about this book was spot on – the description, the plot, and the characters. If I had anything negative to say, it would be that there were so many characters that sometimes I had to think for a couple of moments to remember the specifics of some of the minor characters, such as the townspeople.
This book is not only good from a historical perspective, but also because the message is so relevant. Sacrifice, loving your enemies, standing up for what is right, even if you are standing alone, mercy, and keeping your word despite the cost are just some of the ideas Groot explores through her characters. I especially like her comments in the afterword about asking ourselves not, “What would Jesus do?” but asking, “What can I do right now?”. It really challenges readers to make a difference day by day in our communities and the people we come in contact with.
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a great historical fiction read.