Reviewed: 2015-04-19 - (Review Updated: 2015-04-19)
I've read a number of stories and seen plays and movies that were set in the American Civil War and "Seth -- a Civil War Story" is among the very best, whether digital or dead tree, big screen or monitor.
Bill Offutt has written a perceptive coming of age story about a young teen boy, Seth, and about his comparably young country, the united States of America. Young Seth is mixed up about right and wrong, has divided loyalties, is torn between community and family, and isn't sure how to decide; Offutt's plot makes deciding important. So also with the young united States, the same problems exist about right and wrong, divided loyalties, community and family ties, and indecisions. Constant and recurring tensions plague Seth, some needing immediate attention, some allowing time to think a bit. The tale provides a realistic view of the problems individuals and communities had in deciding how to live across these five Aprils. It is populated with mostly upstanding persons who have been put under unfair stresses and strains, and they respond in a variety of ways.
Bill Offutt again shows a marvelous depth of knowledge about the times and places in his story, demonstrating a clear vision of the setting. The characters in his drama move within scenes that occupy carefully crafted stages with correct period implements, vocabularies, clothing, and concerns. The intimate details of the settings add to the characters and the plot--they do not distract from them.
He employs enough characters to flesh out a real tale (some of them remaining offstage as significant elephants in the room) without having too many that might interrupt the plot as it meanders unerringly in a straight line from beginning to end.
The writing is superb. It is a slow read; I wanted to savor the tastes and smells of the storytelling. Grammar and spelling are nearly flawless. His use of dialect and regional accents are written without attracting too much attention to the odd spellings and contractions. The story flows well, both preparing the reader to have some idea about what might be coming next and keeping the story fresh with unexpected twists of fate.
No sex, but there are hints of coming of age coming in the future. Seth the boy is on his way to becoming Seth the man, just as the united States of America are on their way to becoming the United States of America.
This is a fine story to read for the enjoyment of a good story, and it is an excellent story to experience an immersion into the times.