Saturday, April 11, 2015
This Side of the River
Southern Civil War widows’ disdain for General William Tecumseh Sherman
and the Yankees is evident through the diaries and letters these women left behind, but a new literary
noir looks at what may have been had these wives actually armed themselves and risen up.
University of Mississippi English Professor and award-winning short story writer Jeffrey Stayton releases his first novel, This Side of the River, in February 2015, the sesquicentennial of the end of the
Told from multiple narrators, the gritty tale takes place in Georgia the summer of 1865 after the
Confederacy has collapsed. A contingent of young Civil War widows who have survived General
Sherman’s March to the Sea rally around a teenage Texas Ranger named Cat Harvey to travel to Ohio
to burn down Sherman’s home.
The story explores themes of trauma, revenge and redemption, while
also touching on the reality of post traumatic stress disorder during the Civil War, known then as
“nostalgia” or “soldier’s heart.”
Stayton speculates about the war crimes Shannon’s Scouts committed during Sherman’s March and
gives Confederate soldiers’ “body servants” a voice that few Civil War stories do.
Heather Newton, author of Under The Mercy Trees, praised Stayton’s crafting of the “unforgettable
widows, whose accounts of their quest for revenge under the leadership of boy-Captain Cat Harvey
evolve from humorous to sinister until the very stones cry out with the women’s rage and indignation.”
Corey Mesler, author of Diddy-Wah-Diddy: A Beale Street Suite, calls This Side of the River “a wild
and enthralling mythopoeic-historical novel.
“It is an audacious move, especially for a first time novelist, but Stayton’s ventriloquist act and his
lyrical aptitude are up to the task. This Side of the River tells a Civil War story you have not heard
before,” Mesler said. “Comparisons to Tom Franklin and Charles Frazier are inevitable but Stayton is
his own man, and his assured use of his storytelling gifts portends a grand career.”
Stayton has his Ph.D. in English from University of Mississippi, where he now teaches. He currently
lives in Memphis, Tennessee and has written book reviews for the Missouri Review and awardwinning
fiction for Carve Magazine, StorySouth, Lascaux and Burningword Literary Journal.
On April 25th from noon to 3PM From My Shelf Books & Gifts will be hosting a duel author event with William P. Robertson and Jeffrey Stayton. William P. Robertson is the author of the Bucktail series and Jeffrey Stayton is the author of the recently published This Side of the River.
This Side of the River tells the story of a group of young, angry Confederate widows who band together at the end of the Civil War, take up arms, and march north to Ohio to burn down the home of General William Tecumsah Sherman.
It draws from the rich tradition of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and Charles Baxter's The Feast of Love as it interweaves themes of gender, revenge, and redemption. It's a masterfully-written debut from a bold new literary voice.