Enemy Women (2002)

by Paulette Jiles

Unless you're from southeast Missouri, you might not know that it was one of the most incendiary, dangerous places during the Civil War. The Missouri Union Militia (not trained Union troops) and the 15th Missouri Calvary (freelance Confederate) ran amok through the Ozarks’ towns and farms. With neighbors informing both sides against neighbors, widowed Squire Colley hopes to keep his family of a son and three daughters safe by remaining neutral. He succeeds for three years and then is arrested on a dubious charge of treason, and his house and barn are burned. Oldest daughter Adair sets off with her two sisters to find their father and clear his name, but an acquaintance betrays her to the Union Militia for supposedly aiding the South. Adair ends up imprisoned.

What happens next is even more compelling. Adair is a spunky, pretty 18-year-old who isn’t afraid of talking boldly to her interrogator, Major William Neumann. He’s intrigued, then falls in love and promises to return for her after the war. He helps Adair, battling tuberculosis contracted in prison, escape. Adair makes her way south back to the family farm. While she doesn’t like what she finds there, she sees another of her dreams fulfilled as the book ends.

Paulette Jiles was already a respected poet and memoirist when she wrote this acclaimed novel. Born and educated in the United States, she lived in Canada for many years and won the Canadian Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1985. She moved back to the United States in the 1980s when she married a Texan and now lives on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country.


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