Amanda Lauer’s CALA-award winning debut novel had me hooked at the very beginning. Deep inside the stately home of her Uncle William, a young Irish lady named Amara McKirnan tends to the wounded of the latest battle. Hers is the only cheerful face the soldiers are likely to see, as Amara learns to become a nurse. The Civil War brings much suffering, and the soldiers are in desperate need of her ability to listen, comfort, and write letters home.
The war is not going well for the South. Major General Sherman marches on Atlanta, and the hospital that Amara and Doc Burgess are running is in danger of becoming appropriated by the Union Army. Meanwhile, a mysterious Texan in the end cot captures Amara’s attention. He is unlike the other men, harsh and funny at the same time, polite and yet remote. After he recuperates, will Amara ever see Corporal Nathan Simmons again?
Corporal Simmons has a secret. Though he wears the Confederate gray, is he really fighting for the South? His two younger brothers are Union soldiers; how could he possibly fire upon them? Simmons is a Texas man now, through and through. When he reappears in Atlanta wearing Union blue, what is Amara supposed to think?
This story received the 2016 Catholic Arts and Letters award. Lauer’s faithful representation of Atlanta society, Irish heritage, and the Catholic faith that brings two unlikely people together makes great reading for teens and up. I give this book a special commendation for the descriptions of a Texas ranch with Spanish and Native American hired men.