Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Random House | Crown
Pages: 304 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads
Summary (from Goodreads)
Rosetta doesn't want her new husband Jeremiah to enlist, but he joins up, hoping to make enough money that they'll be able to afford their own farm someday. Though she's always worked by her father's side as the son he never had, now that Rosetta is a wife she's told her place is inside with the other women. But Rosetta decides her true place is with Jeremiah, no matter what that means, and to be with him she cuts off her hair, hems an old pair of his pants, and signs up as a Union soldier.
With the army desperate for recruits, Rosetta has no trouble volunteering, although she faces an incredulous husband. She drills with the men, proves she can be as good a soldier as anyone, and deals with the tension as her husband comes to grips with having a fighting wife. Rosetta's strong will clashes with Jeremiah's while their marriage is tested by broken conventions, constant danger, and war, and she fears discovery of her secret even as they fight for their future, and for their lives. Inspired by more than 250 documented accounts of the women who fought in the Civil War while disguised as men, I Shall Be Near to You is the intimate story, in Rosetta's powerful and gorgeous voice, of the drama of marriage, one woman's amazing exploits, and the tender love story that can unfold when two partners face life's challenges side by side.
Thoughts on I Shall Be Near to You
I can't remember where I first spotted this book, but I was immediately intrigued. As a lover of historical fiction, there are certain time periods that can automatically add a book to my wishlist. And the Civil War is one of those settings! I mentioned I Shall Be Near to You to Cass, and she ended up reading it before me. She adored it and was so persistent about telling me that I needed to move it up on my TBR.
After I started I Shall Be Near to You, I knew that I wasn't getting up from my couch until I finished reading it. The first chapter had me hooked, and it just got better from there! Do you want a clear picture of just how much I loved this book?
I was so invested in this story and these characters:
this book made me cry like you wouldn't believe.
And I never cry while reading.
I just needed to get that out there. I read this book more than a month ago and am just now writing down my thoughts about it. How can I adequately put my love for this book into words?! I'm not really sure, but I'm going to try.
These characters just worked their way into my heart. Seriously, there were so many amazing elements to this book, but the characters absolutely stole the show for me. Rosetta and Jeremiah were so complex and engaging. I was completely in love with them - the sweetness and sass of their interactions just worked so perfectly. There's a lot to this book, but the defining aspect is the love story between these two characters. And yes, I was swooning! I was also grinning, sighing, laughing and bawling. I turned into an emotional basket case reading this book...
I can't say much about the plot because I don't want to spoil anything. So, I'll stick to broad strokes based on what you know from the summary: Rosetta disguises herself as a man and enlists in the war because she doesn't want to be separated from her husband. And everything that happens next is just practically perfect in every way. I mean, it's not perfect, but it's gritty, real, heartbreaking and just absolutely everything I wanted the book to be.
As expected, I also really loved the setting. I didn't know that women disguised themselves as men and enlisted in the war, so I found that aspect of the book really fascinating. The time period really came alive for me, including the emotional atmosphere. I loved that McCabe chose to focus on this small group of men from the same hometown. The group dynamics helped portray the thrill of going to war and the discontent as reality set in. I cared about this ragtag group of men, and it gave me anxiety the entire time I was reading because I know how devastating the war was and how many men were killed while fighting.
As far as the writing goes, McCabe's writing just drew me in. I was powerless to resist. This was her debut novel, and I'm seriously giddy at the thought of more books from her in the future. Rosetta's voice was amazing. She was smart and engaging, and I loved that she had some sass. Or a better way to put it: this girl's got some gumption. Words can't do her justice.
Rosetta became one of my all-time favorite characters by the time I closed the book. I could imagine all the real, flesh-and-blood woman like her who risked it all. And it's the biggest compliment I can give this book to tell you that it made the past come alive for me. This book is exactly why I love historical fiction. I can't recommend I Shall Be Near to You enough! It's a month later, and the emotion and memory of it still feels fresh on my mind. It was the perfect kind of read for me. I may have gotten from the library, but you better believe I'm buying a copy for my shelves. This is one I'll be re-reading again and again!
'Woman! I don't know what you see in this story. There ain't nothing to it. The trick to winning a woman's love,' he says, looking at Jeremiah, 'is to work for it.' And then he laughs and reaches his arm to hook round Mama's waist from where he sits next to her.
She swats at him but he don't care because she is smiling.
He puts his hands out and says, 'Girls, don't ever settle for a man who won't labor for love.'