cover image The Hearts of Soldiers

The Hearts of Soldiers

DK Publishing, Joan Vannorsdall Schroeder. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $24.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2553-9

Two families fight their own quiet battles in the modern-day Gettysburg, Pa., of Schroeder's moving second novel (after Solitary Places). Both the Davieses (Cal and Ellen) and the Carvers (Allison and Jeremy) have lost a child. Stephen Davies escaped his authoritarian policeman father and ""disappeared"" more than 20 years ago, ""whacked out on drugs."" Hannah Carver died in her teens after jumping out of a train. Cal and Jeremy, a blind Lutheran minister, are counterparts, one caring for souls, the other for citizens' physical safety; both know ""sad things inside out,"" and both must help Gettysburg cope with the new disaster of serial church burnings. One arson suspect is the long-vanished Stephen; the other is Allison's lover. Schroeder's elegiac prose fits the poignancy of her plot, but never quite strips the reader of hope. Cal and Allison narrate the novel in alternating segments, and their unstinting honesty gives them claims to the reader's affection. One of Allison's friends says, ""The most interesting people in [Gettysburg] are the ghosts""; the novelist who created her proves her wrong. Agent, Henry Dunow. (Apr.)