Sunday, August 23, 2009

10. All Other Nights by Dara Horn

My friend Adriana recommended some websites to me when I asked for book suggestions. I found the description of All Other Nights on one of those websites, and immediately requested it from the library.

This is the story of Jacob, a young Jewish soldier in the American Civil War. He is recruited to act as a spy for the Union, and his missions include killing his uncle who plotted to assassinate Lincoln, and marrying a young Jewish woman doing spy work for the Confederacy. He unexpectedly falls in love with his wife while he is supposed to be collecting evidence against her, but they are separated when her sister turns him in just as Jacob reports his sister-in-law to his superiors. Jacob reads of his wife's death in prison, and later suffers devastating injuries during a Confederate raid. After returning home to New York, he learns of the possibility that his wife is alive and well. He sets out to find her, and eventually meets their daughter.

This book was interesting with detailed, engaging story-telling. The experiences of Jewish Americans during this era was something that I had never thought about. Although this was a novel, the author was inspired by many actual people (detailed in an Author's Note at the end) and I came away feeling as though I may have learned something new.

I had a couple of problems with the novel, though. Throughout his story, Jacob is unable to say no to people. His parents arrange a marriage for him, and instead of refusing he runs away and joins the army. His superiors order him to murder his uncle, and he does it despite his doubts about it. He is asked to marry a stranger in order to collect evidence, and he goes through with it. We don't really get any insight into why he does this, especially when he is racked with guilt over his actions. Also, the novel ended somewhat abruptly. During a chaotic attack on the southern town in which he found his wife alive and well, Jacob is attempting to flee to the north. It's quite suspenseful, and you're not sure what's going to happen. It feels very much like the middle of the story. Then Jacob's wife shows up and he sees his daughter for the first time and it just... ends. It's just over. While it was an enjoyable read, I just didn't know what to make of the ending.

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