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SAVANNAH: Or, A Gift for Mr. Lincoln
, $23.95 (304p) ISBN 0-525-94803-1
The final leg of Sherman's march from Atlanta to Savannah provides the backdrop for Jakes's latest Civil War novel (after Charleston
), focusing mostly on the fate of a comely widow. Sara Lester is the owner of the magnificent plantation Silvergrass, but her continued possession of the place is threatened on two fronts: by the Union soldiers steadily advancing on Savannah ("a gift for Mr. Lincoln") and by corrupt Judge Drewgood, who pressures her to sell the property. When the retreating Confederate army lays waste to Silvergrass, Sara and her feisty 12-year-old daughter, Hattie, take refuge with Sara's best friend, Miss Vastly Rohrschamp. Hardly are they settled at Vastly's house in Savannah when a band of rogue Union soldiers breaks in and wreaks havoc. Thankfully, an unlikely rescuer comes to their aid: Stephen Hopewell, a journalist traveling with the Union Army. Stephen's subsequent wooing of Sara is pleasing, but other story lines are contrived: an African-American slave named Zip attaches himself to a Union officer and comes to his aid, and Hattie befriends Tecumseh Sherman after an unfortunate encounter with the Union leader in downtown Savannah. Jakes continues to explore the nooks and crannies of American life during the Civil War, and while this isn't one of his best efforts, it's an enjoyably lighthearted take on an otherwise underexplored stretch of Sherman's march. Agent, Rembar & Curtis. (Oct. 25)