I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of Tamera Kraft novella, Soldier’s Heart, number 13 in the Murray Pura’s Cry Freedom Civil War Series. At first, the title threw me because I thought it was a story about a Civil War soldier who does something courageous during or after the war. I still thought this even after Tamera sent me the summary. But my confusion with the meaning of the title didn’t cloud my liking it. Soldier’s Heart tells the story of a Civil War vet who’s PTSD affects his ability to successfully rejoin civilian life.
The best things about reading historical fiction is 1) it takes you to a different time and place, and 2)you learn a thing or two about history. Soldier’s Heart does both. The story is told from the point of view of Noah Andrews, the soldier who just returned to his Ohio farm after 3 years in the Union army, and his young wife, Molly. Through them, the reader gets insight on how it feels to be haunted by the carnage of war, and the loved ones who don’t understand it. The story could have taken place within the last ten years, but Kraft’s descriptions and historic references to the Ohio Volunteer Infantry remind the reader they are still in the nineteenth century.
More could have been done with setting, giving us additional glimpses into that Ohio town. But the focus of the story is on the marriage and how doubt and omission of the truth can harm that marriage.
This is Christian fiction, so there are Bible verses, overt Christian references and sermon summaries. But they aren’t overdone for the tone and theme of the novella. The references fit with the make up the character’s personalities. The characters are reasonably flawed: a husband too proud to tell his wife what’s wrong and a young wife who just wants him to “get over it”. Their flaws don’t make them unlikable. Even the wife’s actions and reactions are plausible by the fact that she married at sixteen years of age. The time and setting to provide enough layers in the storyline that keeps you rooted in the past and make you care about the characters.
Soldier’s Heart is one of those nice, easy reads that provides a quick escape to a different time and place for the afternoon.