Until Shiloh Comes
Karl A. Bacon
Historical Chronicles Press (2015)
Reviewed by Kristine Hall for Reader Views (10/15)
Article first published as Book Review: ‘Until Shiloh Comes’ by Karl A. Bacon on Blogcritics.
“Until Shiloh Comes” by Karl A. Bacon takes place during the Civil War, at the Battle of Shiloh, where two young soldiers lie wounded and dying. Aaron, a Confederate, is mere miles from home, but for the Yankee Stanley, home is a world away. When Aaron's widowed mother, Davina Matthews, comes to the battlefield searching for her son, she first finds Stanley, who makes a bargain that Davina must promise to save Stanley in exchange for him telling her where to find Aaron. She agrees and finds her son, but Aaron doesn't live through the trip, his final words to his mother asking her to love Stanley like a son.
As the family is mourning Aaron, they are angry that a soldier whose army caused Aaron's death is convalescing in their home. It is only through their Christian principles and faith in God that they tolerate Stanley's presence. Through the combined effort of not just Davina's family, but also her family of slaves, the Jacksons, Stanley regains his strength and heals both physically and spiritually as he's taught the scriptures of the Bible. As Stanley gets stronger and works to repay his debt to the Matthews and Jacksons, who have grown fond of him, he finds he's not clear of danger. The townspeople want him gone, and slave trader Jean-Baptiste LaVache wants to take him for profit; but the greatest danger of all is from within the family, in bitter, angry, violent Luke Matthews. “Until Shiloh Comes” explores questions of loyalty, love, and faith and what it means to be a Christian, especially when it isn't easy to believe God hasn't stopped caring.
Author Karl Bacon has given readers a beautifully written, beautifully edited novel that richly describes the land and the mindset of southerners during the Civil War. He paints a realistic picture of life on a farm in the 1860s and the enormous amount of labor it takes for it to be fruitful, which will really appeal to fans of historical fiction. Bacon is also strong in his characterization and masterfully fleshes-out Stanley Mitchell, who readers see change and mature into an honorable young man. Through the arrival of Stanley in their lives, the Matthews family has to stretch their Christian comfort zone and practice what the Bible preaches, regardless of how painful it is to do. For the Jackson family, Stanley shows them that friendship and respect are color blind.
The bonds and relationships which build between the various characters unfold very slowly, which lends the story authenticity, but also creates some lulls in the story line. Too much is revealed in the cover blurb and story overviews that are posted online, so for maximum enjoyment, readers should dive right into the story and enjoy a few surprises. There is constant tension as Luke becomes more and more intolerant and hateful, and LaVache is always lurking in the background, but the real action comes at the very end of the book, which unwinds very quickly leaving readers hanging with the set-up for the next book in the trilogy. Given the ending of “Until Shiloh Comes,” there’s little doubt that in the next book in the series, author Karl A. Bacon will provide considerably more action – can’t wait!