Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt is one of Robbie's all-time favorite books. I first read it shortly after we were married and completed a re-reading of it today. This novel is the story of Jethro Creighton, a nine-year-old boy when the Civil War starts in April of 1961, the first April referred to in the book's title. The story continues through the end of the war and the fifth April, 1965. Jethro's life is changed in many ways as he grows up during these four years. Two of his brothers, a cousin, and his close friend and teacher are fighting with the Union Army; and one brother, the one he has always felt the closest to, is fighting with the Confederate Army. After Jethro's father is weakened by a heart attack, Jethro takes over the hard labor required to keep a farm running. With the help of his sister Jenny and the goodwill of neighbors, he plows and plants and harvests, all the while reading newspapers and waiting for letters bringing news of the war. The family suffers heartache when one of Jethro's brothers is killed in the war and they suffer loss when some of the locals set their barn on fire to show their disapproval that Jethro refused to criticize the brother that was fighting for the south.
The book touches on quite a few issues including loyalty, bravery, love, desertion, honesty, hard work and perseverance. The characters in the story are believable and well-developed, and the novel does a fabulous job of integrating historical facts about the war (battles fought, generals in command, casualties, Abraham Lincoln's decisions) into the story being told from the perspective of a southern Illinois farm family and the surrounding community. It portrays how a family living in one of the border states during the Civil War viewed the war and offers others' views through conversations, letters, and discussions of newspaper articles.
I enjoy books like this one that help make history "come alive." Reading about the Civil War from the perspective of an ordinary family helps me better understand the effects of the war on the people of that time.