Book Review: Until Shiloh Comes: A Civil War Novel (1) by Karl A. Bacon
“A mother should never see her son like this.”
A Christian, historical fiction novel would seem an easy to overlook niche book. That would be a mistake. Until Shiloh Comes is about more than a poor southern family’s reaction to the devastation of a major Civil War battle on their doorstep. It’s about reality forcing its way into what we think is right and normal. Yes, five stars is a stretch, but there are so few really good books of this genre.
“How you talk isn’t important … what’s much better is the meaning of your words.”
Until Shiloh Comes is what fiction should be: engaging at a level deeper than facts. It’s what Christian fiction should be: real. It’s what historical fiction should be: accurate, yet accessible. Bacon succeeds telling a story true to the history, religion and sensibilities of 150 years ago yet still engaging to modern readers.
“It mightn’t seem right to us, but it’s what the good Lord’s given us, so that makes it right.”
The case in point is religion. Evangelical Christianity in 2016 has a different vocabulary and set of assumptions than Christians held in 1862. But to exactly reconstruct the particulars of the old-time faith would make it unintelligible to moderns. The author gently suggests differences in belief without raising contentious issues.
“But God had a different plan, and I don’t know what it is.”
Similarly, Bacon keeps the reader in the story historically with true-to-the-time details of race relations, farming, building and weapons technology. Experts may quibble, but for most readers its close enough.
“Famished food’s always better.”
Quibbles: Bacon overdoes the regional and racial dialects. Yes, rural Tennesseans would have spoken an argot unintelligible to modern ears, but having established his character’s types early Bacon could back off as the novel progresses. The neighbors’ reaction to a hated enemy might be less laissez-faire, but highlights the behavior of those whose reaction isn’t.
“A man ain’t what he is, but who he is.”
It ends with a cliffhanger, but unlike so many inept series the first volume is a cogent whole. The reader is drawn in to more, but not left feeling cheated by a three hundred page introduction.
“I’d rather not pass that way in the dark again.”