Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Review of "Dog Tags: Divided We Fall," by C. Alexander London

 Review of

Dog Tags: Divided We Fall, by C. Alexander London, ISBN 9780545477079

Four out of five stars

Too much emotional angst

 While the American Civil War was brutal and hundreds of thousands of men died or were left permanently damaged, there were also countless permanent emotional scars. There are some very good aspects of this book, specifically the recounting of how there were abolitionists and pro-union people in the Confederate States. However, the different emotional states of the main character, a boy named Andrew, are overplayed.

 Andrew’s mother and father are learned people living in Mississippi during the Civil War that insist on book learning for their two boys and they do not own slaves.  Yet, they are loyal to the Confederate cause, believing that the fight is against northern tyranny. Andrew is twelve and his older brother Julius is sixteen. When Julius joins the Confederate Army, Andrew wishes that he could also join.

 As a consolation, Andrew joins what is called the Home Guard, which is designed to protect the local people from Confederate deserters and runaway slaves. As always seems to be the truth in such cases, the other members of the Home Guard are the male dregs of society. Andrew’s dog Dash is a superb hunting dog, capable of tracking the faintest of scent trails.

 When Andrew and Dash track down a Confederate deserter and one of the Home Guard shoots and kills him without reason, Andrew begins to question his loyalty to the cause. He quits the Home Guard and engages in some actions that he considers disloyal. Other events follow, including a search for his brother that has gone missing.

 There are many different instances where Andrew questions his actions and his motives, even to the point where he is furious at Julius. That aspect of the story is overstated, diminishing what could have been a great story of the conflicting loyalties and beliefs that were present among the people on both sides of the bloodiest American fight.

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