The Rebel Wife
By Taylor M Polites
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781451629514, 304pp.)
Publication Date: February 7, 2012
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Readers of The Kitchen House and A Reliable Wife will love this page-turning southern gothic novel set in Reconstruction Alabama, about a young widow whose quest for truth turns into a race for her life.
Augusta Branson, born of a prominent Southern family made destitute by the Civil War, is forced by her family into marriage with a wealthy upstart. Ten years after her marriage and the end of the war, she watches her husband, Eli, die from a horrifying blood fever.
Newly widowed, Augusta begins to wake to the realities that surround her: her social standing is stained by her marriage, she is alone and unprotected in a community that is being destroyed by racial prejudice and violence, the fortune she thought she would inherit does not exist, and the deadly blood fever is spreading like wildfire. Nothing is as she believed, everyone she trusts is hiding something from her, and if Augusta can’t find a missing package, she and her son face certain death.
Using the Southern Gothic tradition to subvert literary archetypes like the white Southern Gentleman, the good Mammy, the conniving scalawag, and the defenseless Southern Belle, The Rebel Wife shatters the myths that still cling to the antebellum South and creates an unforgettable heroine for our time.
Taylor M. Polites received an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University, where he was awarded the 2009 Norris Church Mailer Scholarship. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
“This engrossing novel about a resilient heroine in the post-Civil War South has all the drama of the era and none of the clichés.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
"This is a wonderful first novel—passionate and brave. It removes the skin of an era, and questions so many of the tropes that hover around 19th century southern American literature. It was Faulkner who, in the 20th century, talked about the voice of fiction being inexhaustible. Taylor Polites has extended our narrative reach into yet another time. A fascinating, genre-subverting historical novel. "—Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
“The best historical novel is the one we forget is a historical novel . . . Taylor M. Polites pulls off just such sleight of hand in his gloriously gothic, moody post-Civil War novel, The Rebel Wife . . . an expertly packaged history lesson about the massive social and economic upheaval that was Reconstruction, where fortunes changed hands, the word 'freedom' lost its meaning, and Yankees weren’t the only enemies of 'the sons and daughters of the defeated South.' . . . [S]plendidly researched . . . The Rebel Wife offers a valuable new perspective.”—Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“History with a heartbeat, lovingly described and yet a true page turner.”—Providence Journal
“Lithe, sophisticated . . . Highly stylized, this quick-moving, tautly crafted Southern Gothic begins to redefine the up-until-now unrelenting archetypes of Southern gentlemen, Southern belles and the Southern slaves who waited on them . . . effortlessly detailed.”—Charleston Post and Courier
“[The Rebel Wife] shatters the myths that still cling to the antebellum South and creates an unforgettable heroine.”—Mobile Register
“Vivid and beautiful . . . action-packed . . . An ambitious novel, one that hinges on research, insight, and decency.” —The Virginian-Pilot
“Multi-layered and rich with historic detail. Refracted through the prism of one very determined woman, this gripping suspense story is about nothing less than complicated truths and harsh realities.”—TucsonCitizen.com
“A richly detailed portrait of Reconstruction-era Alabama. . . . Nimble, engrossing . . . builds to a vivid climax.”—Publishers Weekly
“The suspense is exquisitely honed . . . pulled back just in time to make for a wonderfully chilling—yet over-heated—read.”—Booklist