As a young child growing up in the pre-Civil War South, Varina Howell assumed that “owning other people was a given.” But when she was 9 years old, “she began feeling the strangeness of it—not the wrongness or the sin of it, the strangeness only. The sense that a strong line cut through all the people she knew and everybody who existed. And that she stood on one side and others stood across—free on her side, enslaved on the other.”
In her teens, Varina longed for a calm, secure life, so she agreed to marry the landowner Jefferson Davis, older than her by several decades. Instead of the peaceful existence she had hoped for, Varina was catapulted into the public eye when her husband became President of the Confederate States of America.
Years later, as Varina recalled her family’s escape from Richmond, Va., at the end of the Civil War and their subsequent capture, she daily lived out the truth that “being on the wrong side of history carries consequences.” Her childhood musings on the “strangeness” of owning other people grew into a full-fledged understanding of her participation in the Confederacy’s endorsement of slavery.
In this historical fiction for adults based on the life of the real Varina Howell Davis, author Charles Frazier shows how ordinary people are swept up into the tragic events of history and how each carries responsibility for individual choices. (Ecco)
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