A quietly powerful novel, “Enemy Women” allows the reader to follow in the footsteps of eighteen year old Adair Colley through what some consider the living nightmare that is her life as she travels mostly by foot across the countryside near the end of the Civil War. Adair begins her journey with her two sisters after their home was burned out and their father was beaten and taken by Union guerrilla soldiers. Along the way, the sisters are separated when Adair is falsely accused of aiding the enemy and subsequently imprisoned where she meets and falls in love with the Union major who is her interrogator. Major Neumann helps her escape and her long journey begins.
Author Paulette Jiles has created an extraordinary character in Adair, one who is uncommonly well educated and devoid of behavior or actions typical for young women of that era. She exhibits uncommon courage and bravery in the face of numerous circumstances that test her physical endurance, her mental acuity and her indomitable inner spirit. The term “survivor” is certainly apropos. As Adair meets and deals with each challenge as it comes, Jiles deftly reveals the causal changes in her personality and demeanor so we feel the changes with her. It’s a rare talent that can create those illusions and sweep the readers up and carry them along for the ride. This story is rich in texture and poetic phrasing that will make your heart sing. Jiles is a rare talent indeed. My only criticisms are; the numerous obscure terms that were never explained and had me scrambling for my online dictionary, and the strange formatting which omits quotation marks and uses capitalization inconsistently. Four and a half stars.
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