Then a steamboat whistle splits the air. The Rob Roy from New Orleans docks at the landing, and off the boat step two remarkable figures: a vibrant, commanding young lady in a rustling hoop skirt and a darker, silent woman in a plain cloak, with a bandanna wrapped around her head. Who are these two fascinating strangers? And is the darker woman a slave, standing now on the free soil of Illinois? When Tilly's mother invites the women to board at her house, the whole world shifts for the Pruitts and for their visitors as well.
Within a page-turning tale of mystery, adventure, and the civilian Civil War experience, Richard Peck has spun a breathtaking portrait of the lifelong impact that one person can have on another. This is a novel of countless riches.
|Publisher:||Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.92(w) x 5.72(h) x 1.01(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Born in Decatur, IIlinois, Richard Peck has written over 18 novels for young readers. He is the winner of the 1990 Margaret A. Edwards Award, a prestigious award sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association of the American Library Association in cooperation with School Library Journal; the 1990 National Council of Teachers of English/ALAN Award for outstanding contributions to young adult literature; and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award.
Read an Excerpt
THE SEARCH FOR NOAH
“Where is he?” Delphine demanded to know, gazing about for anything resembling a hospital.
“There are six regimental hospitals,” Dr. Hutchings said. “Those three tents are one of them.”
“We go there.” Delphine hiked her shortened skirts.
“Oh no, Miss Duval.” The doctor put out a hand to bar her way—never a good idea. “No women—ladies—are allowed in the hospital tents. It’s entirely for your own good. The men are in their underwear, and there are no blankets and . . .” Dr. Hutchings was getting right down to the end of his rope.
Delphine had drawn up to her almost five feet without the heeled slippers. She glanced back at me, and her veiled eyes sparked their dark fire. “This girl’s brother is in that tent. Is it so?”
Dr. Hutchings admitted it was.
“You are not an officer to command me. And me, I am not a soldier.” She pointed herself out with a gloved finger. “And if I was, I wouldn’t be soldiering on this side. Get the quilt,” she said to me.
The doctor was this close to wringing his hands. “Truly, Miss Pruitt,” he said as we bore down on the tent flap, “I can’t permit—” But it would have taken five or six men his size to keep us out. I wanted my brother.
BOOKS BY RICHARD PECK
Are You in the House Alone?
The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp
The Ghost Belonged to Me
Ghosts I Have Been
Invitations to the World
A Long Way from Chicago
Lost in Cyberspace
Past Perfect, Present Tense
The River Between Us
Strays Like Us
The Teacher’s Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts
A Year Down Yonder
THE RIVER BETWEEN US
Table of Contents
The Model T Ford Touring Car
To me, the best part was that we’d make the trip by car. When I say car, I mean a Ford, of course, a Model T touring car, and they don’t make them like that anymore. In those days it was a big thing to drive a car out of town, let alone a hundred miles each way of Southern Illinois dirt road. I thought the journey itself was going to be the adventure.
My dad made house calls in the Ford. He was a very well-thought-of doctor in the St. Louis of that time. A tall man with black curly hair parted in the middle and steel-rimmed spectacles gripping the bridge of his nose. He wore high celluloid collars, and I never saw him without a necktie.
I thought he carried all the wisdom of the world in the black bag that traveled to house calls with him on the front seat of the Ford. With the same silent skill that he used to set a bone, he could patch a tire.
Apparently, my dad had been young once, but I couldn’t picture it. Even at the age of fifteen I knew but little about who he was and where he’d come from. And so I knew but little about myself.
My dad was what they called a self-made man. Though he’d succeeded in St. Louis, he’d come from a little town called Grand Tower on the other side of the Mississippi River down low in Illinois.
All I knew of Dad’s people was that they’d lived through the Civil War. Imagine an age when there were still people around who’d seen U. S. Grant with their own eyes, and men who’d voted for Lincoln. People you could reach out and touch.
My dad’s father, the first Dr. William Hutchings, had been a doctor in the Union Army. My grandmother and grandfather Hutchings still lived in what Dad called the homeplace, down in Grand Tower, that wide spot in the road.
I couldn’t remember visiting them before. My mother was very standoffish about my dad’s side of the family. She was a St. Louis girl, and we boys were named for her side of the family. I was Howard Leland Hutchings. My little brothers, twins, were Raymond and Earl. At the age of five, they were too young to figure much in this story, but they came along on the trip too.
Dad worked a six-and-a-half-day week. It was a great occasion when he found an afternoon to take me to a Browns game. That was before the Browns forsook St. Louis to be the Baltimore Orioles.
But now he had announced that we were going to visit his folks—motoring there and back in the Ford. It was the summer of 1916, and war was raging across Europe, the Great War. Dad said it was just a question of time before America got in it. In wartime there’d be restrictions on travel, and so it was now or never.
The next thing I remember is the morning we left, like the dawn of creation. It was a July day breathless with St. Louis heat and the thrill of the open road unwinding before us. Our preparations had taken days. We’d been through the toolbox time and again. We’d filled as many cans of gasoline as we could strap to the running boards. Dad had personally filed down the points on the spark plugs. I hadn’t slept a wink in two nights, and now the moment of leaving was upon us.
Mother wasn’t going and didn’t want us to go. And I didn’t know why. I remember her up on the porch and the Ford there in the middle of Maryland Avenue. Dad and I wore dusters and caps with goggles. One of the extra features of our Ford was a windshield. But it was always laid flat across the hood for city driving. The Ford was a touring car, which meant it had a canvas pull-up roof in case of rain, or for when you spent a night on the road.
You had to crank the car a good ten minutes to get it going, and Dad left that part to me. The knack for starting a Ford was to jack up a rear wheel. He got the little boys settled on the rear seat, but they kept spilling out of the car, running back to the house for something they’d forgotten. I wondered if we’d ever get away.
But at last the engine caught and turned over. The Ford coughed twice and came to life. Dad broke a fresh egg into the radiator so that it would hard-boil and seal the leaks. The boys were more or less settled. Dad let out the brake and fiddled with the gas lever. We’d already aroused the neighborhood. Now we were off in a volley of sharp reports from the tailpipe. And Mother was turning back to the house.
I ought to have kept a journal of the trip, but that’s not the way of a fifteen-year-old boy. I remember we were hardly over on the Illinois side before Earl learned he was subject to car sickness and Raymond was hit with a great wave of homesickness. Dad had something in his black bag for Earl. He cured Raymond by saying it wasn’t too late to take him back home and leave him behind.
Dad’s plan was to keep the Mississippi River on our right side and try to be in the vicinity of Chester, Illinois, by nightfall. We made good time on dry roads south from Dupo and didn’t have our first flat until very near Waterloo. In all, we did pretty well with only four flats that day, one in each tire. But it seemed like the Ford was on a jack more than it was on the road. We pumped the tires up by hand. The last sign we saw for free air was outside Columbia.
The little boys needed a steady flow of water from the bottles we’d brought. This made for endless stops at the side of the road. This was a strictly men-only expedition, so we occasionally all four stood in a row over a ditch when the road was empty both directions. An hour of driving would pass before we’d see another car.
We’d pull up by open pasture and drop a ruler into the tank to gauge the gas level. The tank was set in right under the front seats, so it was like riding a bomb, though I never heard of one going off. On our stops, the boys could run wild in the field, wrestling and tussling and mauling each other like puppies. I couldn’t remember being that age.
While we were watching them, Dad said, “Twins run in families and tend to skip a generation.”
“Was your dad a twin?”
“My mother and her brother are twins. You’ll meet Noah. They all live together in the homeplace. My dad and mother and my aunt and uncle. People lived however they could in years past, sharing out what they had. Seemed like most of my dad’s patients paid him in fish out of the river and vegetables out of their gardens. A doctor doesn’t get rich in Grand Tower.”
“So you had four parents,” I said.
“In a manner of speaking, I did.” Dad watched the boys. “It wasn’t a bad way to grow up. They taught me how to make do, and to keep my private business private. Pretty good lessons.”
Down around Red Bud the ruts were deeper, and there was more standing water. We were getting farther into Southern Illinois, the territory they call Egypt for some reason. The farms were hardscrabble yellow clay. They plowed around trees growing clumped in the middles of fields. Two or three hills were so steep that we had to turn the Ford around and go up in reverse. So when the sun was getting down in the west, it was time to call it a day.
Two things my dad mistrusted: water from an unfamiliar well and all hotel rooms on the Illinois side of the river. He could give you a short and sweet scientific description of the common bedbug that made you happy to spend the night on the same car seat you’d bounced along on all day.
We pulled off the road just at dusk and built a little campfire. The boys found sticks to roast wienies on. Now we were early explorers, of the Lewis and Clark party, sitting cross-legged around the wilderness fire. Dad sat just out of the glow on the running board. With any luck, we’d be in Grand Tower tomorrow night by this time.
He must have wondered what the place would look like to us city boys who until today had thought the whole world was paved.
“There never was a lot to Grand Tower,” he said, “though it showed some progress after the war. When I was a boy, they had a saddle factory, a cigar plant, a gunsmith shop or two, a brick works. Enos Walker started a sawmill that peeled logs and made strips for splint baskets. My uncle Noah worked there for years.”
The little boys’ eyes were glazing over. “But it’s not much more than a ghost town now,” Dad remarked.
This alerted the boys. They looked around with big eyes. The trees were black with night, and now they noticed where they were. “A ghost town isn’t quite the same thing as a ghost,” Dad said. But seeing he had their full attention, he added, “Of course, every little old town had a haunt or two.”
From back in the trees came the rushing of some night bird’s wings. The rusty creak of a turning windpump sounded across the darkness.
“There’s a hill over the town called the Devil’s Backbone,” Dad said.
Ghosts and now the devil. He had us in the palm of his hand.
“The house where I grew up straddles the Backbone about halfway along. Now a road runs between the Backbone and the river. A ghost or something very like it has been seen crossing that road on dark nights like this.”
I suspected Dad was playing up the story for us, but it worked on me like a charm. The boys were about in each other’s laps.
“It’s a woman,” Dad said, “in old-time skirts with gray hair streaming down her back. She’ll dart out in the road, running hard, making for the river, where she seems to throw herself in. It’s been reported for years. Any number of horses have shied, and buggies turned over. There are people who won’t go down that road after dark.”
Steadying my voice, I said, “Dad, did you ever see . . . anything?”
“Not me.” He stood up, working the kinks out of his back. “You know how these old stories grow in the telling.” But then he added, “I don’t know what my mother thought. I know she didn’t like to hear talk about that particular ghost. Too close to home, I suppose.”
Then we were all too sleepy to make it through another moment. We pulled up the roof of the Ford and rolled the boys in car rugs to settle them on the backseat. They were joyous at turning in for the first time in their lives with dirty faces and necks. Dad drifted off, sitting bolt upright behind the wheel with his necktie in place. The rusty sound of the distant windpump turned in my dreams until daylight.
We made it to Grand Tower by the next afternoon, though we’d overheated at Rockwood. The road nearly played out past Fountain Bluff. Then we were coming down a last hill, above the town, steeping like tea in the deep summer damp.
Above the town Dad pointed out a long, sharp-backed hill as the Devil’s Backbone. Across the river on the Missouri side another stone outcropping rose straight out of the water. This was Tower Rock, and it gave the town its name, Dad said.
The whole heat-hazed place looked as old as the rocks it nestled among. It didn’t seem likely to me that anybody had ever been young here.
We drove up the Backbone as near to the house as we could get. I remember it now like a moving-picture show of that time, without sound and all in black and white.
I see the little old lady on the porch with her hands in her apron. Grandma Tilly: a tiny face wrinkled like a walnut, and wisps of hair drawn back in a knot. Behind her apron she’s slender as a girl, and there’s something young about her. She dances with the pleasure of seeing Dad stride up the hill. To her, he’s “young Bill,” we’re young Bill’s boys. She’s been waiting for this moment.
Behind her in a rocker is her husband, older than she is, ancient. Waxy with age, trapped by the years and his chair, but alive behind his eyes. He has a shock of fine white hair and a curling, somehow military mustache. He wears a once-ivory alpaca suit in this stifling afternoon, and a high collar under his chins. He’s too old to stand, but his loose-boned, veiny hand comes out to Dad, and his eyes are wet.
The camera of my memory ducks under the tin-roofed porch and enters the house as everybody did, through the kitchen door. A black iron range stands before the old open hearth. A door to the hall shows the way upstairs. There are big square bedrooms above, smelling of old times, and the old. A big chest of drawers stands in the upstairs hall. Beyond it in the best room that looks out on the river is Dad’s aunt Delphine, in a four-poster bed.
The room hangs in lavender scent. It’s so crowded with things, you could miss a smaller woman in the bed. But my great-aunt is very stout. Her hands, restless on the turned-back sheet, look like little pillows. Rings are embedded in her fingers. She’s propped below a picture on the wall of a man with yellow hair in an old-fashioned costume.
She turns startling violet eyes on us. Under her beribboned bed cap, her black hair is in ringlets like a girl’s. She has a faint mustache. When she sees my dad, her plump hands fly to her mouth, and the tears flow in dark streaks down her face.
In the moving picture memory makes, Great-uncle Noah is under the window of his wife’s room, weeding one-handed in the heat of the day. But that can’t be. The garden ran down from the far side of the house, and Uncle Noah would have been on the porch with his sister Tilly to greet us. He was certainly there on the day we left—only a little bent over, in his shirtsleeves, one of them pinned up above the missing arm.
In the first moments of our visit, even the little boys were all eyes. They’d been promised snakes around the woodshed and catfish they could catch themselves. They’d banked on shoeless days and bathless nights. But just for a moment they were caught in the grip of this place. They felt the weight of its history, and mystery.
So did I. The paper was loose and peeling on the walls. I wondered how many layers you’d have to scrape away until you came to the time when these old people were young. If they ever were.
I wondered how quiet you’d have to be to hear the voices of those times.
The House Astride the Devil’s Backbone
“Tilly!” Mama called out to me from the kitchen. “Go find Cass.”
The sun was winking away behind the big rock across the river. Tower Rock, standing high out of the water. A grove of trees grew over the top of it. Tower Rock rose on the other bank of the river and our Devil’s Backbone here on the Illinois side. A dangerous stretch of river ran between—our stretch of the river.
Even though Tower Rock was over in Missouri, with the river between us, it gave our town its name: Grand Tower. Nobody wanted to live in a town named after the devil.
It wasn’t any use to holler for Cass from the porch. Up in her private places on her hill, she was deaf unto the world. Cass was a terrible worry to Mama, and I thought anything that worried Mama ought to worry me.
As quick as the sun was down, a chill came off the water. It was the end of April with some spring showing, time for the river to stir itself. Word had reached us that the ice was breaking up below St. Paul and rotting above Dubuque. We’d had the packet boats down from Quincy and St. Louis. But we needed the Southern boats to keep us in business. And only days ago President Abe Lincoln had proclaimed a blockade on the Southern ports.
Last month when Lincoln was inaugurated as the President of the United States, we’d built bonfires down by the landing to celebrate—show him the way to Washington, as people said. Few were for him, of course. You had to set fire to the woods and sift the ashes to find a Republican around here. But Lincoln was an Illinois man, one of us.
What People are Saying About This
It's a riveting story that shows racism everywhere and young people facing war, not sure what side to be on or why. (Booklist, starred review)
Peck reaches new depth with this Civil War-era novel. . . (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
A rich tale full of magic, mystery, and surprise. (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
Historical fiction fans should enter this at the top of the must-read list. (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review)
The harsh realities of war are brutally related in a complex, always surprising plot that resonates on multiple levels. (he Horn Book, starred review)
This unusual Civil War novel really boosts Peck's credentials as America's best living author for young adults. (The Washington Post)
Unforgettable characters and handsome prose make this book one you won't want to miss. (Children's Literature)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is one of my favorite books. I had to pick out a civil war book for a history assignment. Once I got into I realized how good it was. Who new history was so awesome?
I¿m not a historian but The River Between Us by Richard Peck seemed like an accurate account about what life was like a hundred years ago. He tells of interesting events of 1916 with the new Ford Model T touring car. It made me think of how wonderful we have it now with the ease of transportation. He also takes you back to 1681 before the Civil War and the hardships of life. It was interesting and humbling to learn how peopled lived. I was skeptical about reading this book because I don¿t like war books but this book was much better than I anticipated. I enjoyed the mysteries that kept you thinking and for me a few surprise twists I didn¿t see coming¿or think he would put in the book. The characters in the story I found interesting and wanted to learn more about. I felt he kept the story moving along at a good pace and I didn¿t get bored. I would definitely recommend this book. In fact I plan on giving it to my friend¿s son who is 12 and loves history and learning about the Civil War. adb3301
Plot Summary : The story takes place in a small Illinois town, Grand Tower. It begins in 1916 with a young boy taking a trip with his father and twin brothers in a Model T Ford. Young Howard finally gets to meet his father¿s family. The story unfolds as Howard wonders what their lives were like during his father¿s childhood. The novel then backtracks to 1861 and describes his father¿s childhood. The novel ends with a return to the events of 1916. Readers will encounter many of the main characters of the story in their latter years as secrets about the Pruitt family are revealed that will startle readers leaving them wanting to know more about the lives of Tilly, Noah, Delphine, and Calinda.Critique: Peck tells an emotional story about a small Illinois town and its people during the Civil War. Its seems that it is historically accurate of events and locations. The various settings in the novel are real places that Peck researched. I enjoyed reading this novel and felt like I was part of this period.Curriculum Uses: You could have these assignments:1.Draw a map of the Miss. River from New Orleans to St. Louis.2.Find other important dates of history. Look up using various references.
During the early days of the Civil War, the Pruitt family takes in two mysterious young ladies who have fled New Orleans to come north to Illinois.
This two-time Newbery winner wrote yet another gem. This book contains excellent portrayals of the life of Northern and Southern women during the Civil War, of a country torn apart in loyaties and racial bigotry and prejudice.Peck shines a scathing light on the hypocritical nasty do gooder church ladies who are filled with racial prejudice.Set in a small Illinois town wherein the Mississippi river is a focal point of economics for the area, Peck superbly writes of the impact of the Civil War upon the life of the small town folk who merely want to go on with their lives.I recommend this book to those who like historical fiction and to those who enjoy the writing of Richard Peck.
The first couple of chapters left me a bit confused, but once I figured out who was narrating and what was going on, the story hooked me! Great historical fiction - I learned a lot, especially from the Author's Notes at the end of the book. I would have loved to read this book as a student when studying about the Civil War.
its about a family from Grand Tower, Illinois. Howard learns the history about his family when they were in the Civil War. Mrs. Pruitt, lives with her three kids Noah and Tilliy are twins they are 15 years old and there little sister Cass. Cass has vesions about mens deaing. Noah mom dosent what Noah to go to war she is worred that he will die. A boat coames from New Orleans to Tower there comes a young beautiful womencomes with a companer is black people think that she is her slave . what are there secrets what are they hading? will Noah go to war ? who are does women?
This is a very good YA novel. The plot twists are of the sort that tend to be surprising to white people of all ages and less so to black people or other ethnic groups.
An eye-opening story of the people during the Civil War, with two very different parts of the country represented. One is rural Illinois where most of the people favored the north, and the other is the free blacks from New Orleans, who had held a respected position in the city -- but who could no longer continue their way of life if the north won. The characters are as strange to one another as if they were from different worlds. Young teens will be amazed by how difficult things were back then that are so simple now, and will also learn about white men who had more than one family in New Orleans, one with a white wife and another with a black mistress. Racial tensions and beliefs will open eyes.
This is a YA book that really speaks to the youth about the reality of war. Noah and his friends practice soldiering to prepare for the War between the States while some families are divided over loyalties to the North or the South. The events in the book are factual and told from the perspective of a young adult which makes it appealing to students. The characters is this book are very real and deal with issues that are universal no matter what the time. Tilly is shocked to learn about the ¿Quadroon¿ society from which Delphine and Calinda hail. This book gives a great history lesson on the ¿Free People of Color¿ which is glossed over by many textbooks these days.
The story kept getting better and better as the book went on...The book takes place during the early days of the Civil War, out in the west (Southern Illinois) in a small no middle of no where town up along the Mississippi River. The characters- The Pruitt's a poor family (Mother, Cass the young daughter, Noah and TIlly a set of twins...and the father who has not been around for years does make a surprise appearance in the end in a coffin)...and two woman who show up mysteriously from down the river on a boat (Delphine and Calinda)The beginning of the book deals mostly with the characters...they all are mysterious and special in unique ways, I am glad the author spent time building up the characters, I soon became protective of them and was left wondering what would happen to them, I actually cared about the characters...Cass has visions of horrible things in the river, the mother a bit crazy, Noah a young boy sixteen heading off to war still a boy but to be changed forever, Delphine brings a class of wealth and society, Calinda a mysterious woman with cooking and cards...Due to the era of the book, the book does deal with racial issues, bi-racial relationships, class structure, society's views and opinions on race, slavery, etc...Four Stars-The book is very informative and detailed, the book does an excellent job in describing the way of life in the 1860's. It brings to life the horror of war, boys going off to war to be killed, disease in the war camps, soldiers with missing limbs, the fighting between families father vs son on the battlefield...Yes, the book is heavy on the romance aspect but the story is very emotional, their is pain and sorrow as well, not just a love story. There are a lot of interesting facts regarding the Civil War.The author does a great job in not telling you too much about the characters...through out the story you learn more and more of the characters...this was my favorite part, I was really surprised at the outcome of this book.This book is a middle school level...boys would enjoy this book for the fighting aspect (it takes a while for the book to dive into war) and the girls would enjoy this book for the romanticism. Anyone who is interested in the Civil War would enjoy this easy read and entertaining story.
The book was an easy read. I feel like I did not understand some of it because I do not know enough about the Civil War. It made me want to find other books on the subject that could give me more information.r
Great book about the Civil War and the private war many people faced during this time.
An interesting look at the Civil War era in Illinois, Richard Peck transports readers back in time. Like his other books for middle school students, this piece of historical fiction is easy and interesting to read.
Have you ever heard of a Civil War love story? Well,here's one and more. Taking place in 1861,this is a compelling story of one girls journey to save her brother,not only from the war,but from himself. Recommended for ages 12 and up this is a story about what sacrifice really means. When two strangers land in little muddy town on the banks of the Mississippi River the towns folk can't make anything of it. This though is where Tilly Pruitt and her twin brother Noah meet the people who will change their lives forever. Richard Peck has written over thirty novels for young adults. Some of his more well known include:A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way From Chicago. He was the first children's author to receive the National Humanities Medal."My mother and her brother are twins. You'll meet Noah. They live together in the homeplace. My dad and mother and aunt."This is really where the story begins. Some of the most important points in the story are when Noah leaves for war. This is a real turning point in the story. This is when Tilly realizes that the war may really take her brother from her. The second would be when Tilly's Mama makes her leave on the one condition that she not come back without her brother. This is a real problem because during the Civil War many did not come home alive. "But I couldn't go empty handed,without Noah. It wasn't me Mama wanted" This quote shows what Tilly had to do in order to go back home after the war. This story has accurately depicted the hardships that many families went through. Compared to other books of the same genre this is an amazing book. It stands up well to other books that I have read. Though with this story you might want a dictionary on hand because it is hard to understand. In this story you can read about what sacrifice means. When two strangers come into town Tilly's mother takes them in. With two fancying each other and Noah ready to go to war anything can happen. Overall this book is great, anyone who reads it will enjoy it.
Over the summer I read "The River Between Us" by Richard Peck. At first, I WAS NOT INTERESTED IN THE BOOK. Some parts were confusing, and I had to go back sometimes to make sure of facts, and double-check details. However, after reaching chapter three, this book and I became inseparable. I am very glad that I chose it. "The River Between Us" is about a girl named Tilly growing up at the onset of the Civil War. Although the first and last chapters are narrated by her grandson, the novel focuses on her and adventures with two New Orleans women who come and live with her family. I think the theme of this novel is growing up when you need to, even if you're not ready. And also falling back into the past, whether you actually lived through it, or is you're just listening to your grandmother's stories. At the end of the book, one particular section stood out to me. "At first I didn't know how to listen to tales so old. But we began to edge across the years towards each other, Grandma Tilly and I. I began to see the yellow lamplight in their faces, just a flicker at first. I heard calliope music wavering over the water." This told me more than anything else how vividly a story can bring an old time back. This book does a great job of describing even the tiniest detail to make you feel connected in many ways. I would gladly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys drama, action, sorrow, or joy. It is a wonderful book.