“Sisters of Shiloh” by Kathy and Becky Hepinstall
Synopsis: A best-selling novelist enlists her own sister to bring us the story of two Southern sisters, disguised as men, who join the Confederate Army—one seeking vengeance on the battlefield, the other finding love.
In a war pitting brother against brother, two sisters choose their own battle.
Joseph and Thomas are fresh recruits for the Confederate Army, daring to join the wild fray that has become the seemingly endless Civil War, sharing everything with their fellow soldiers—except the secret that would mean their undoing: they are sisters.
Before the war, Joseph and Thomas were Josephine and Libby. But that bloodiest battle, Antietam, leaves Libby to find her husband, Arden, dead. She vows vengeance, dons Arden’s clothes, and sneaks off to enlist with the Stonewall Brigade, swearing to kill one Yankee for every year of his too-short life. Desperate to protect her grief-crazed sister, Josephine insists on joining her. Surrounded by flying bullets, deprivation, and illness, the sisters are found by other dangers: Libby is hurtling toward madness, haunted and urged on by her husband’s ghost; Josephine is falling in love with a fellow soldier. She lives in fear both of revealing their disguise and of losing her first love before she can make her heart known to him.
In her trademark “vibrant” (Washington Post Book World) and “luscious” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) prose, Kathy Hepinstall joins with her sister Becky to show us the hopes of love and war, the impossible-to-sever bonds of sisterhood, and how what matters most can both hurt us and heal us.
3 out of 5 stars
I’ve always been fascinated by stories of women who disguise themselves as men, whatever their reasons for doing so are. There are so many true stories about the women who fought in the Civil War, fighting to avenge a loved one, or fighting because they thought it was the right thing to do.
This is a story of both – fighting in the war to avenge a lost loved one and fighting because it’s the right thing to do. Josephine and Libby are as close as two sisters can be. Josephine is the older sister and Libby is the adored, beautiful younger sister. Each other’s best friend, until a neighboring boy, Arden, takes an interest in Libby.
Josephine never forgave Arden for marrying her sister and taking her away from the family. During the battle of Antietam, Arden is mortally wounded and Libby takes a vow to kill as many Yankee soldiers as years that Arden lived – 21.
Josephine can’t let Libby go alone, so both sisters cut off their hair and pick up guns to join the Confederate army. The story is woven with flashbacks to the sister’s childhood, and to Libby and Arden’s short marriage.
Josephine/Joseph struggles to hold on to any vestige of femininity throughout the story and Libby/Thomas does the opposite by almost becoming her deceased husband. Thomas is the better soldier and intent on killing. Joseph is terrified of killing anyone and just wants to go home.
This is an interesting story, but I feel like I have read it before. I am in the middle of reading a similar story so perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have. Still, a quick and easy read that I did like.