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The Good Journey - Micaela Gilchrist

Simon & Schuster 2001 $24.00 $36.50 Canada (393 pages) ISBN# 0-684-87143-2

by Pat Maynard
-originally published in The Historical Novels Review Magazine of the Historical Novel Society (HNS)

"Sixteen years ago, when I followed the General away, I had known him for only three days. I reconciled myself then to sleeping with a gentlemanly stranger. How could I have known that years later a stranger would die in my arms? Perhaps in death I shall know thee."

So begins Micaela Gilchrist's first novel, The Good Journey, which vividly and poignantly tells the story of Mary Bullitt, an outspoken, independent Southern belle and her husband, General Henry Atkinson, Commander of the Sixth Regiment and guardian of the frontier stretching from the Canadian border to the Red River, as Mary reflects back on their life together.

After their marriage back East, Mary and the General return to his post at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, where it's only a matter of time until she becomes embroiled in the bitter and personal feud between her husband and Black Hawk, leader of the Sauk Indian tribe. With the passage of time and in spite of his reticent nature, Mary falls deeply in love with her strong, silent husband as he slowly but surely becomes the lodestar of her life irregardless of the fact that he continually and skillfully circumvents most of her efforts to discover what truly 'lays beneath his skin'.

As the novel progresses, the Indian situation in general continues to escalate and eventually culminates in 1832 into the Black Hawk war from which the General returns haunted by the resultant slaughter. Although the 'powers that be' had encouraged the Army to get rid of the Indians in whatever manner they deemed necessary, the General was repulsed, particularly by the butchery of the militia called out by Governor Renalds of Illinois to aid the Army in bringing down Black Hawk and his people.

From research of a collection of private letters between Mary Bullitt and General Henry Atkinson, as well as research into the General's military records, Gilchrist brings to life these pages from history in a way that is both spellbinding and, ultimately, heartbreaking.


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