In this richly imagined, utterly original debut a mother- daughter road trip leads a young girl—a precocious Civil War buff—to a hard-won understanding of the American history she loves and the personal history she inherits.
Eleven-year-old Katherine McConnell is so immersed in Civil War history that she often imagines herself a general, leading troops to battle. When Kat’s beautiful, impulsive mother wakes her early one morning in the summer of 1968 to tell her they will be taking a road trip from Georgia to Maine to find antiques for a shop she wants to open, Kat sees the opportunity for adventure and a respite from her parents’ troubled marriage. Armed with a road atlas and her most treasured history books, Kat cleverly charts a course that will take them to battlefields and historic sites and, for her mother’s sake she hopes, bring them home a success. But as the trip progresses, Kat’s experiences test her faith in her mother and her loyalty to the South, bringing her to a dif- ficult new awareness of her family and the history she reveres. And when their journey comes to an abrupt and devastating halt in Gettysburg, Kat must make an irrevocable choice about their ultimate destination.
Deftly narrated with the beguiling honesty of a child’s per- spective and set against the rich backdrop of the South during the 1960s, The Confederate General Rides North gracefully blends a complex mother-daughter relationship, the legacy of the Civil War, and the ache of growing up too soon.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Amanda C. Gable’s short stories have appeared in The North American Review, The Crescent Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Kalliope, Sinister Wisdom, Other Voices, and other publications. She has been awarded residency fellowships by Yaddo, the Hambidge Center, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. A native of Marietta, she currently lives in Decatur, Georgia.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
1. The Confederate General Rides North is a coming-of-age novel, about Katherine coping with difficult events and being forced to grow up quickly. Though the trip she and her mother take lasts just under a week, Kat changes her attitudes about a number of things; what are they?
2. The story of Katherine and her mother’s journey is told exclusively from Kat’s point of view. In what ways would the novel be different if the story had been told by Kat’s mother in first person narration? How would the novel be different if third person narration had been used and the thoughts of both Kat and her mother were revealed? What might have been lost in a different sort of narration?
3. Discuss how Katherine uses her love of Civil War history to cope with her personal difficulties. How does the author convey this in the italicized sections? How does the “voice” of the italicized (3rd person) sections differ from that of the primary 1st person narrative of the book? Does the voice of the “italicized” sections change over the course of the book?
4. The journey in the novel takes place early in the summer of 1968. In what ways and from whom does Kat learn about some of the important political events of 1968? How does she make sense of this information and what effect does it have on her as she travels with her mother? What memories or knowledge do you have about the political and cultural events in the U.S. in 1968?
5. What are the various civil wars in the novel? How is Kat involved in these “wars”? Are there places in the novel where Kat begins to make connections among some of these “wars”?
6. Discuss your own notions of being identified as southern or northern. How does Katherine grapple with this issue?
7. Several secondary characters, some more prominent than others, contribute to Katherine’s education and growth during the novel. Discuss one or two who struck you as the most important guides, either in a positive or negative manner.
8. Katherine’s grandparents and aunt give her a lot of love and attention. Other than your parents, did you have another family member or another adult who served as a guide or mentor to you when you were a child? Talk about the qualities of this person and one particular time you remember spending with them.
9. How does Kat describe her mother, Margaret McConnell? Do you think her description is accurate? How do you feel about Kat’s mother as the novel progresses? What about Kat’s father, Bill McConnell?
10. Discuss the relationship that Kat has with her mother and father. Which scenes in the novel reveal best how Kat feels about each parent and the legacies she has “inherited” from each?
11. Katherine loves books and they are important talismans for her above and beyond their content. What favorite books do you remember from your childhood? Were they on a particular subject, as Kat’s are? Discuss why they were so important to you.
12. Discuss the significance of Gettysburg as the last battlefield of the book. Why does Gettysburg hold such significance for Kat before she and her mother even get there? How does the place of Gettysburg contribute to Kat’s development?
13. What is Kat’s understanding of violence and war at the beginning of the trip? How has it changed by the end of the trip? Discuss the reasons for the change.
14. Were you surprised by Kat’s actions at the end of the novel? In what way? What do you imagine happens after the novel ends?
15. Many people have visited Civil War battlefields (or other battlefields or historic sites) on family vacations. If you’ve been on such a trip, talk about your experience. How did you feel; what did you learn; did it change you in any way? What sort of tour did you go on—was there a museum—a living history presentation—a bus tour—car audio tour? Who in the family planned the trip and who drove?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I had never heard of this book before attending the Southern Festival of Books in nearby Nashville last October. I love my yearly trek to Tennessee's capital to discover new authors each year, and Amanda Gable is quite a discovery, indeed. I found it very easy to relate with protagonist Katherine McConnell since I also grew up in the South as a fairly dorky, history buff kinda kid who had some conflicting emotions about the South's checkered past in the areas of slavery and civil rights. This book tackles these subjects and more with aplomb.As Katherine and her mother travel further North and Katherine begins to sense that something is not quite right, Katherine uses her love of Civil War history to cope with her personal difficulties and misgivings. The author conveys this in italicized sections where Katherine pretends to be a general fighting her own war, which is what Katherine is essentially doing. Katherine is fighting a personal war over her ideas about what it means to be a Southerner, but she is also fighting a familial war with her mother who has been overtaken with her mental illness. Also going on in the novel, which is set in 1968, are the political and cultural events surrounding civil rights that seemed to reach a fever pitch that year.One aspect of the novel I particularly loved were Katherine's love of books, especially the biographies of famous people in American history. There is one particular set that I read as a child; my favorite was the biography of Florence Nightingale.For fans of Southern fiction, as well as those interested in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the effects of mental illness on families.
Upfront disclaimer: I know the author of this book, and like her quite a bit though it has been a few years since I've seen her. She is a bright woman and a kind person. So I was quite excited to hear she has published a novel, and was prepared to be kind to it even if it turned out to not be my kind of book.Happily, that isn't necessary. It is indeed a fine novel. The narrator is Katherine, an 11 year old girl who is obsessed with the idea of being a Confederate general. It is the late 1960s. One summer morning her mother announces that the two of them are going to take a long trip from their home in Marietta, Georgia up to Maine, buying antiques for the store they are going to open.Katherine knows her Mother has her rocky days, but the trip sounds exciting. The farther they go, the more disturbing the plans. For one thing, her mother reveals that they are going to live in Maine and open the store there. Katherine hurts at the idea she will not see her father and grandparents for a long time. Along the way, Katherine gets to visit some of the major Civil War battle sites, and learns that war is not the noble thing she had thought.On the surface, there's not a lot of action in the novel. Yet it is a marvelous book, an excellent exploration of character. This will be one of my favorite books of 2009.
First Line: "Get up, baby," Mother says. "We're going on an adventure."It's the 1960s, and eleven-year-old Katherine McConnell's mother is most definitely taking her daughter on an adventure. Without a word of good-bye to anyone, Kat's mother has her pack a bag and then they hop in the car for a road trip north to Boston and Cape Cod, where Margaret McConnell grew up. Margaret plans to open an antique shop, and they're going to make stops along the way to buy merchandise for the store.Kat is dragging her feet a bit, especially when she's told that she can't say good-bye to her father or grandparents, so to sweeten the deal, her mother tells her that Kat can be in charge of the itinerary. This makes Kat's eyes shine because she daydreams of being a Confederate general in a spotless uniform riding a beautiful horse. If Kat plans the itinerary, she's going to make sure they stop at as many Civil War battlefields as they possibly can.Mother and daughter haven't gone many miles down the road before the reader has a very strong feeling that something's up... and that Katherine McConnell is a very special eleven-year-old girl. Her obsession with the Civil War isn't the run-of-the-mill obsession of a horse-crazed tomboy. Kat uses her knowledge of the Civil War and its generals as a coping mechanism: "The Confederate general often feels very alone; after all, everything is up to her. Even if she gets advice from her staff, the decisions are hers. She can't reveal her uncertainties to anyone. Her men and her staff need to be confident in her, confident in her abilities; it wouldn't be good for them to know about the times that she is unsure and confused. To know that she questions her own resolve."The farther the road trip progressed, the more foreboding I felt. Would an eleven-year-old be able to deal with what I felt was coming? It's been a while since I've been this involved with characters in a book, but Kat and her mother had me wound up tighter than an eight-day clock. By the end of The Confederate General Rides North, I wanted to hug the stuffin' out of Kat McConnell-- and author Amanda C. Gable. Gable's debut novel had me very emotionally involved from beginning to end, and that doesn't happen very often. I'm looking forward with great anticipation to her next book.
The South breeds strong women and young women. Our obsession with the Civil War is brought to the forefront and we as readers are forced to question our inability to separate glory from the tragedy that occured over 100 years ago. The journey of the Confederate General to enemy territory educates and informs us all of our need to remember the past with truth and to recognize that the glory was all for the wrong reasons. Gable captures the conflict in us all and brings her characters hope for acceptance of a long overdue process.
I had never heard of this book before attending the Southern Festival of Books in nearby Nashville last October. I love my yearly trek to Tennessee's capital to discover new authors each year, and Amanda Gable is quite a discovery, indeed. I found it very easy to relate with protagonist Katherine McConnell since I also grew up in the South as a fairly dorky, history buff kinda kid who had some conflicting emotions about the South's checkered past in the areas of slavery and civil rights. This book tackles these subjects and more with aplomb. As Katherine and her mother travel further North and Katherine begins to sense that something is not quite right, Katherine uses her love of Civil War history to cope with her personal difficulties and misgivings. The author conveys this in italicized sections where Katherine pretends to be a general fighting her own war, which is what Katherine is essentially doing. Katherine is fighting a personal war over her ideas about what it means to be a Southerner, but she is also fighting a familial war with her mother who has been overtaken with her mental illness. Also going on in the novel, which is set in 1968, are the political and cultural events surrounding civil rights that seemed to reach a fever pitch that year. One aspect of the novel I particularly loved were Katherine's love of books, especially the biographies of famous people in American history. There is one particular set that I read as a child; my favorite was the biography of Florence Nightingale. For fans of Southern fiction, as well as those interested in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the effects of mental illness on families.