“Americus, Americus. Is it possible you are not aware of the appalling conditions of starvation and neglect of the human beings incarcerated in the Andersonville Prison? Is it possible a mere ten miles separates Heaven from Hell?” states the handbill in Tracy Groot’s novel, "The Sentinels of Andersonville." At three hundred and sixty-eight pages, this historical fiction targets those interested in the clash between the North and South during the American Civil War, from the standpoint of an actual prison based in Georgia. With gruesome details of malnourishment and suffering along with minor slang and intentional misspellings for dialect emphasis, it would be geared toward mature readers. Sadly, America’s history of hatred for one another is truthfully displayed in this intersecting story of three individuals during the late eighteen hundreds in the South. There is Rebel Emery Jones who has captured a Union Jack but conscientiously struggles as he enjoys his charge’s conversation and companionship while delivering him to the Andersonville Prison. There is young, patriotic Southern belle Violet Stiles, sheltered from the cruelties of war, yet adamantly determined to stoically help its cause. And there is Dance Pickett, a cynical university man stuck on prison patrol on top of the wall over-looking the vast sea of dirty, starved soldiers. All have a deep compassion for the condemned souls, even if they are their sworn enemies. As the nearby town of Americus closes its eyes to the atrocities at the twenty-six acre prison that contains up to forty-five thousand prisoners with almost a third dying, the three try with all their resolve to give aid and food to those in diseased, barbaric conditions, as they avoid accusations of being Union sympathizers and traitors. While Emery makes a pledge to his new-found friend and Violet witnesses a man’s life deduced to nothing, Dance must come to terms of what he truly believes. When the three realize how their homeland has forgotten and forsaken those so similar to themselves, they are committed to bringing the pathetic, inhuman realities of stockade life to the public. Written with both compassionate and witty dialogue, readers are pulled from the bloody battlefield to filthy, flowing prison rivers as friendships are formed, hearts are broken, and beliefs and values are determined. Groot’s page-turner brings to light how mankind can be either cruel and heartless or loving and redemptive, even during war. Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for furnishing this book in exchange for a review based on the reader’s opinions.
I enjoyed Sentinels of Andersonville, as I love historical fiction, and the author, Tracy Groot, did a wonderful job writing this book. The characters are very detailed, and the story is brought to life. You feel what it is like in Andersonville through the eyes of a guard, a young woman who wants to be kind, and a man who has made a friend with an enemy. You see how hard it was to be kind without being called a traitor, the risks people took, how to keep your friendship, and what it takes to keep your promise.