Norfolk, Virginia, 1864. Charlie Brewster arrives to recruit African American soldiers for the Union. He is recently returned from three years of service, and though he’s physically uninjured his psychological battle scars run deep. He survived the war…can he survive the peace?
Tensie Stevens’ husband is at the front. She cannot read or write, and wants to send him letters, so Charlie offers to put her words on paper. She has never known a white man show this much kindness. As a former slave she is scarred, too, although some of hers are physical. She helps him recruit other soldiers and he writes letters for their wives as well. So near to the world of war and men he starts to learn about intimacy and women.
Charlie’s Wives is a title that surely deceived me.
Charles Brewster served four years of bloody engagements in the war, and later worked to recruit African American soldiers. Though his recruiting role went beyond finding recruits he also took to writing and reading letters to the wives of men that were serving in the war.
Even though this is a book dealing with the harshness of war it is also heart warming to read about the families and how they deal with their men away at war. With the task of recruiting many men and writing letters for the women Charlie gets to hear the most intimate parts of many relationships. Charlie develops a fondness for the women that brings a heart warming feel to the book. To read and see that Charlie still suffers from mental stress of his time in the war but that he also turn around and make something loving come from that bitterness makes Charlie a real hero.
I see this as an inspirational story because of Charlie’s dedication and compassion for the men of military service. The story offers flashbacks of Charlie’s war time and his current position as a recruiter for the Army. While recruiting, Charlie is adamant that the women write to his men. Charlie’s life seem to revolve around keeping the men at war encouraged. This is where his compassion for the men is displayed so strongly. He could have served his time and went on to do his duties as a recruiter. His being away from his mother and sister and not getting returned letters made him upset and frustrated. This could definitely play a vital part in his need to make sure others stay in contact with their families.
The book is well written and tells a unique story based off of true events. I did find the book entertaining. I wanted Charlie to find a happy ending. The dialogue such as: “Ya’ll, Marser, and sah” took awhile for me to get use to. Readers should be mindful that the language used in the book is dialectic that was acceptable during the 1800’s and the description of war scenes may be too harsh for readers that don’t want to read the details of war.
I would recommend to those that enjoy a good read, but not necessarily one that ends in a completely happy ending.