“When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband’s three-hundred-acre farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself living far from her family and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away?
Inspired by a true incident, this saga unfolds with gripping intensity, conjuring the era with uncanny immediacy. Amid the desperation of wartime, Placidia sees the social order of her Southern homeland unravel. As she comes to understand how her own history is linked to one runaway slave, her perspective on race and family are upended. A love story, a story of racial divide, and a story of the South as it fell in the war, The Second Mrs Hockaday reveals how this generation–and the next–began to see their world anew.”
My Thoughts: My first reaction upon finishing The Second Mrs Hockaday was stunned silence immediately followed by a powerful sense of loss. Placidia’s story so entranced me that it took me several hours to mourn the fact that I had finished it. The silence came about because her story was so powerful it swept me into her world and made me forget my own. It has been a long time since any novel has made me feel this way.
Susan Rivers’ second novel is the epitome of exemplary use of the epistolary literary format and stellar writing. Through the use of personal correspondence, diary entries, and legal documents, Ms. Rivers not only tells Placidia’s tragic story but recreates the South at the end of the Civil War with vivid clarity. Each document has a distinct voice that adds to the story as much as their words do. Other than the inquest documents, the letters are so natural and honest that it is all too easy to get sucked into reading just one more letter, and one more, and yet one more. The Second Mrs Hockaday is the perfect example of an unputdownable novel.