Some novels start with “fireworks” that grab your attention and fizzle out. Not so with AN EYE FOR GLORY, which didn’t grip me until I was reading the last 50 pages. I finished the book two days ago, and the characters still linger in my mind. Here the ending shines brighter than the beginning.
"The faith of the author and the main character shine through this novel, a recommended read in these commemorative anniversary years of the devastating Civil War."
The narrator, Michael Palmer of Naugatuck, signs on with the 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry in time to see and survive the deadly fighting along Antietam Creek in Maryland, where the novel begins. Over the course of several years, this segment of the Union Army sees a lot of action: Antietam, Maryland, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, Virginia, back north to Gettysburg, then back down to Virginia and “the Wilderness.” This also means the infantry marched and marched and marched and also waited through the cold winters for action. AN EYE FOR GLORY shows readers that war is about more than battles. The battles themselves aren’t relayed as graphically as they might be --- a boon to readers who read fiction looking for redemption more than gore. And, in the end, the plot does offer redemption.
This is a first novel for author Karl Bacon, who lives in Naugatuck. He has researched primary resources. Information from firsthand accounts of the 14th Connecticut Infantry lends historical credibility to the Maryland and Virginia geography, the winter camp grounds, the troop movements, skirmishes and battles, and the soldierly frustrations, including digging at body lice --- in short, the setting and characters. Occasionally this means that the text reads more like nonfiction than fiction (which general has fallen or fumbled or been replaced, which forest or farm or road is being trampled). But this is an observation, not a complaint. And, as previously noted, action and emotion pick up as the book progresses.
The tedium off the battlefield is tiresome for Michael, but it’s his own actions and emotions on the battlefield --- the memory of the men he has killed --- that just about do him in.
AN EYE FOR GLORY includes scenes of camaraderie, especially with Michael’s best buddy: John Robinson, an old friend from back home, who dies in Virginia, though not from battle wounds. It includes Michael’s letters back home to his wife, Jessie Anne, who plays a critical role in the final pages; she urges him to travel back south to take care of “something left over from the war…like the last page of a book that needs to be written.”
The faith of the author and the main character shine through this novel, a recommended read in these commemorative anniversary years of the devastating Civil War.
Reviewed by Evelyn Bence on January 17, 2012