A Heart Divided: A Young Soldier’s Memoir
by Tye Po Bludd
PageTurner, Press and Media

"I was here fighting for a cause I deeply believed in, so wasn’t I really a true Southerner myself?"

Fourteen-year-old James Breckinridge (Jimmy) is a tough kid. When his father dies, Jimmy becomes head of his North Carolina plantation. Instead of staying there, however, he heeds a call of duty against the “Northern boys” in the Civil War and joins the Alabama Red Rifles. Accompanying him is Zebediah (Zeb), a slave and close friend. Their master-slave relationship is complex, with Jimmy steadily acknowledging their considerable differences on their journey. His keen observations of men and battle enable him to comprehend the “true cost of war.” He’s also crafty enough to work his way out of dicey situations. An “inhuman” and “wicked” incident ultimately shifts Jimmy’s loyalties, propelling him to join the Union and abandon his allegiance to the Confederacy.

Bludd, a retired master sergeant with a history degree, expertly combines with accuracy a fictional and historical tale of people and events of the American Civil War. Detailed moments on the battlefield, seen through Jimmy, are vivid and visceral, portraying the brutality and carnage of war. While Bludd attempts to give his Southerns more authenticity with the use of heavy dialect, it slows the narrative a bit. Bludd suggests a trick is to “avoid trying to interpret a word you don’t understand just by looking at it” in the attachment “Things To Keep In Mind,” along with terminology which may be unfamiliar within the text. The heavy dialect disappears some by the novel’s second half, marking clear distinctions between northern and southern regions. However, the novel’s strength rests primarily upon Jimmy. Bludd explores the humanity and tragedy of the Civil War through a conflicted boy. It’s his morality and resolution to fight against deep-rooted prejudices for Zeb that drives the chronicle. Bludd crafts a faithful and touching coming-of-age story of an unlikely hero with a realistic and dramatic historical read.

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