Title: Not One Among Them Whole
Author: Edison McDaniels
Format: Paperback and eBook
Genre: Genre Fiction: War Stories
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About the Book:
It is the summer of 1863, and the greatest battle ever fought on American soil is in full tilt. Southern Pennsylvania has become one great grinding stone and thousands of dead or dying are its grist. In this tilted landscape, reputations are made, careers are ruined, and men and women are driven to the brink in the wake of two armies intent on killing one another. Yet opportunity is everywhere…
For the privates and officers who fight the battle, it’s a kill or be killed world, with salvation or damnation just a bullet away…
For the surgeons laboring over the many wounded, opportunity knocks at the bloody tables, where the price of a man’s life is all too often an arm or a leg. The cost to the surgeons, however, will be even higher…
For one undertaker in particular, the dead are a canvas, and his ability to make a body reflect the living individual is nothing short of uncanny. For Jupiter Jones, the burgeoning dead themselves are the opportunity…
And finally, for one teenage former slave, alive only because his father had the courage to bury him, opportunity comes in the form of a ten-year-old boy with a creel and only one shoe, who may or may not be a ghost…
In the summer of 1863, humanity itself is under siege. What happens amid the carnage and human flotsam of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, will be unholy, unnerving, and all but unbearable, with only this certain: not one among them will escape unscathed.
Here, for the living, hell is in session.
And for the dead, it’s the devil’s own day.
While I cannot admit to being more than a passing knowledge of the American Civil War, I am obsessed with the Ken Burns / PBS / History Channel viewpoints of the different battles and the people who waged them. While walking us through the horrors that are warfare after the days following the battle of Gettysburg by following soldiers, one from each side, we are given an entrée into the scene: as gripping as it is graphic. The story, however, really focuses on the lives and days of characters not immersed in the actual battle: but are battling through the aftermath nonetheless. Surgeons, freed slaves, embalmers and citizens all play a part in this story, giving it a sense of grounding and even normalcy in a very traumatic and far from normal time.
There are some fairly gruesome scenes: medical procedures are detailed and described in ways that shock our modern sensibilities and beliefs. Surgeons working while nearly asleep on their feet as they try to save one more, when the dirt, the lack of sterile fields, sheer volume of wounded and the weather all conspired against that goal. Not surprising to me was the despair often felt by the surgeons, the small glimpses into their lives ‘pre-battle’ and the dichotomy that rages within some as they battle the demons of doubt and hopelessness to keep moving forward.
While I didn’t particularly connect with any one character, probably because McDaniels spins a story that hit me with a visceral punch, I had guarded myself against becoming too involved. I did, however, find myself fascinated with Jupiter Jones, snake-oil salesman and talented embalmer with his assertions that the dead speak to him, and maintains a certain attention to providing dignity to his clients in a situation where dignity and decorum are often passed over for expediency.
This is a book that brings the horrors of war and the contrast of humanity in the most inhumane of conditions possible. I suggest this book for anyone studying war, the American Civil War or American History.
I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:
Edison McDaniels is a writer and novelist living in the American midwest. His writing tends to involve ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and is often informed by medicine. His stories showcase historical fiction and the supernatural, especially ghosts. He received honorable mention in the Seventeenth Edition of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (2003), and has been published in Paradox Magazine, The Summerset Review (available online), The Armchair Aesthete, On The Premises Magazine, and others. A number of his short stories can be found online.
He is an alumnus of the Sirenland Writers Conference (2012), sponsored by One Story magazine.
He is also a graduate of Stanford University and is a neurosurgeon. He is board certified in the practice of adult and pediatric neurosurgery and continues to practice with over 7,000 operations to his credit.
He collects historical etchings and attends at least 1-2 baseball games a week between April and October, more if the Minnesota Twins are in town. He also wants everyone to know he proudly served fourteen years in the United States Navy, rising from enlisted to full commander. At one time he was a naval aircrewman on the A-3 Skywarrior and has over 100 cats and traps to his record. He served time at sea aboard the USS Carl Vinson, USS Forestal, and the USS John F. Kennedy. In 2002, he served with the medical team treating the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and performed the first ever thoracic laminectomy at that facility (on a prisoner with TB of the spine).
NOT ONE AMONG THEM WHOLE is his second novel. His first, THE BURDEN, is out of print. His next, THE MATRIARCH OF RUINS, a novel of one woman’s struggle to keep her family going in the midst of the fighting at Gettysburg, will be out soon.