I Shall Be Near To You – Erin Lindsay McCabe

Tomboy Rosetta helps out on her family farm, much to her mother and sister’s chagrin: instead of cooking, cleaning, sewing, and doing other traditional female jobs, she helps her father in the fields and with the livestock doing traditional man’s work.

She never expects that her feelings for neighbor Jeremiah Wakefield would be reciprocated because she is not the least bit ladylike, so she is surprised when he returns her affections. He wants to earn money to buy them a farm in Nebraska, and the best way to do that is to enlist in the Civil War. Rosetta is furious with him for doing such a thing, so she insists that they get married before he leaves so that they will have the benefits of marriage if anything happens to him. Jeremiah readily agrees but takes off shortly after their wedding to avoid her trying to come with him.

Undeterred, Rosetta wraps bindings around her chest, borrows some old clothes, cuts her hair, and transforms herself into a man; once her transformation is complete, she joins up with her local regiment, which just happens to be the one that Jeremiah has joined. She finds Jeremiah and some of their local friends and relatives there. Jeremiah immediately realizes who she is, and so do their friends, but she persuades them to keep her secret so she can earn money for their farm while serving her country.

As she goes through training, Rosetta, now Ross Stone, learns quickly and becomes one of the best soldiers in her unit. She establishes herself well with the other soldiers and manages to make them believe she is a man. She does so well that a man she believes is her friend ends up coming on to her for a homosexual (albeit secret) relationship. She turns him down and exposes her secret to him, and they wind up being close friends as a result. Even during battle, Rosetta proves that she is just as competent a soldier as the other guys. She nurses the wounded, prepares meals, offers support, and participates in warfare. As the war moves along, Rosetta starts to weary as the other soldiers do, but she proves that she is capable on the battlefield.

Written in language fitting for the location and time, I Shall Be Near To You is a close look into warfare through the eyes of a naïve young farm woman. Rosetta doesn’t have much experience outside of her family farm, but frankly, neither do her comrades. She proves through determination and hard work that she is capable of doing just as much as her husband despite being a woman. When she becomes pregnant, she still carries on so that she doesn’t get dishonorably discharged for misrepresenting herself. She is afraid her and Jeremiah’s families will disown her because of what she has done; a wife is supposed to stay home and tend to the homestead instead of dressing up as a man and battling in a war. Rather than face disgrace, she serves her country with pride and does her best to support her fellow soldiers.

I thoroughly loved this book for so many reasons; Rosetta’s spunk definitely tops the list. I also loved how the book describes war as it truly is; we see many casualties and learn what happens to people who are injured and have to go to the makeshift hospital. It is not glamorized, and readers are privy the conversations that most likely happened with a group of young, coarse men sitting around a camp fire waiting to go to battle. Unsightly battle wounds and events are shown for what they are, and less-than-savory actions are commonplace. Despite all that, there are still some decent people, and they exhibit kindness even in the face of war. Still, this book shows that many people have to hide who they are just because they are different, even though they have valuable contributions to make to society.

I Shall Be Near to You is recommended for mature readers. It discusses sexual relationships, violence, profanity, coarse language, and adult situations. This book uses historically accurate terms and social mores, many of which could offend. The author has done extensive research on Civil War battlefields, so they are represented accurately, and unfortunately for some, in gruesome detail. I do not recommend this book for those who cannot stomach war and war-related injury because of the attention to detail; however, anyone who enjoys a good historical novel or the story of someone who bucks tradition will enjoy this great read. Rosetta’s plucky personality and kindness in the face of so much animosity will win her many fans.

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Author: Josh Olds

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  1. War IS very gruesome so I appreciate the warning. This still sounds like a book I would very much enjoy.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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  1. Erin Lindsay McCabe, author of I Shall Be Near to You, on tour September 2014 | TLC Book Tours - […] Monday, September 15th:  Life is Story […]
  2. Truth In Fiction | Erin Lindsay McCabe | Life Is Story - […] course, my perspective changed a bit when my own novel, I Shall Be Near To You, was published. Now…

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