you engage in active military combat and come out unscathed? Zach
Harkin, Union sharpshooter in the Civil War, found there were limits to
what a man could endure. This is the story of his journey to
Gray early morning light seeped through the tall sycamores next to the riverbank. The hollow sound of a distant woodpecker broke the silence. The scope of a rifle followed the Confederate sharpshooter as he climbed a tree to his hidden platform. The scope's spider lines centered on the man's head and Zach Harkin squeezed the trigger.—Scarred by Michael Kenneth Smith (CreateSpace, 2016, prologue)
- Setting: l863-64, south of the Mason-Dixon Line; 1908, mostly Tennessee
- Circumstances: When Union soldier Zach Harkin killed the man who killed his best friend, something snapped. He knew he couldn't point a weapon at another human being again. Mustered out of the army, he returned to his family in Tennessee to attempt to put the war behind him. Instead, Zach couldn't stop thinking of that final Confederate soldier he shot and the diary he recovered from the body. Determined to return the personal affects to the stranger's wife, Zach goes behind enemy lines to find a small farm in Georgia, hoping for redemption or some kind of closure.
- Genre: well-researched historical fiction
- Characters: Zach Harkin, ex-sharpshooter; Chris Martin, reporter for Pulitzer who is interested in writing Zach's story; various real and fictional people Zach meets during his travels
- What I liked: The period details in particular caught my interest, from the conditions at Andersonville to the way roaming soldiers treated civilians. I liked the way Zach is prompted to talk about his journey south by a reporter who interviews him and transcribes the story as a serial for a New York newspaper. The different perspectives of Sherman and Wirtz (the commander at Andersonville) gave me some things to think about. In addition, the novel is well-paced, and the transitions from the 1860s to 1908 were smooth and nicely handled.
- Something I didn't like: My only real complaint is quite minor, but I feel I have to at least mention it. Smith has a tendency to tell rather than show. This did not detract from my enjoyment of the book, however.
- Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook (author published; 5 hr, 23 min) was narrated by Jeffery Lynn Hutchins, whose soft Southern accent added to my connection to the novel. Hutchins handled the dialogue particularly well, with a level of drama befitting a good storyteller. I listened to this short audiobook almost in one go; it was hard to turn it off.
- Things to know: Michael Kenneth Smith's Scarred has earned some impressive praise, including a starred review from Kirkus. This is Smith's second book about Zach Harkins, but you do not have to read the first book to understand what is happening here. Scarred easily stands alone.
- Recommendation: Although this book takes place during the Civil War, it isn't a story about the war. Instead it looks at the effects of war and one man's conflict among friendship, duty to country, and personal actions. Scarred would be a good match for Civil War buffs and historical fiction fans as well as anyone interested in a good story.