Reviewed: “Enemy Women” by Paulette Jiles

Enemy WomenI got a $50 Amazon gift card for Christmas so I immediately set out to find new books to read. Who wouldn’t?

Scouting around on Amazon, I accidentally stumbled across Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles. This is the book description:

For the Colleys of southeastern Missouri, the War between the States is a plague that threatens devastation, despite the family’s avowed neutrality. For eighteen-year-old Adair Colley, it is a nightmare that tears apart her family and forces her and her sisters to flee.

The treachery of a fellow traveler, however, brings about her arrest, and she is caged with the criminal and deranged in a filthy women’s prison. But young Adair finds that love can live even in a place of horror and despair. Her interrogator, a Union major, falls in love with her and vows to return for her when the fighting is over. Before he leaves for battle, he bestows upon her a precious gift: freedom.

Now an escaped “enemy woman,” Adair must make her harrowing way south buoyed by a promise … seeking a home and a family that may be nothing more than a memory. (source)

I was intrigued, to say the least. And even more so because there were used, hardcover copies of the book available for $0.01 (plus the obligatory $3.99 shipping and handling, of course). Now, you might think that intrigued, at least, would lead to an immediate purchase, consider the penny price. But not for me. I overthink things. It’s one of my faults/pet peeves/idiosyncrasies.

But then I remember that, a few years ago, I stumbled across Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles for $1 at my local dollar store, bought it, and loved it. So I splurged on this one too.

It’s even better than my first Jiles find.

The Amazon summary mentions family, falling in love, and freedom in general. Though Adair’s family is ever-present in her mind, they play almost no role in the actual story. They drive to survive, yes, but they’re gone in the first few pages. Falling in love is probably something that every editor and/or publisher makes note of to attract readers and yes, Adair and Major Neumann do fall in love. But this isn’t a love story, not in the sense of romance and, for lack of a better word, wooing. It’s a love story because love gives each Adair and Will something to live for. They’re only together in the love for a scant few pages in the book, but the story is more profound for it. And as for freedom, after what Adair lives through in less than a year pretty much ensures that she will never be truly free of what the Civil War brought to her life.

From my random internet research, I’ve discovered the Jiles was a poet first and her way with words really does show through in every sentence in Enemy WomenSome readers might be bothered that she never uses quotation marks, but I hope no one has put down the book because of that. It only takes a few pages for you to get so carried away with Adair’s story that you can’t remember why you missed them.

This book is definitely one I plan to read again and the now $5 I’ve spent on Paulette Jiles’ books are some of my best spent money on books. I need to find more of her work to read…

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