Open Country – A Civil War Novel in Stories
Published by: Paycock Press
Released: May 21, 2015
“Open Country is a tightly woven novel in 18 short stories that starts and ends at the Ohio River, the division between two families and their friends who fight on opposite sides during the Civil War and figure prominently in the piece. It is written in the vernacular of the time in a tone that is gallows humor because that is the tone common to the situation. For instance, dead soldiers in the Civil War were referred to as somebody’s darling and ordinance that flew over the front lines as quartermaster hunter.
The approach to the subject is unique in that the author is less interested in the battles as in the effect of these battles on the average people who fought in the war as well as their relatives who remained at home. The novel is totally character driven and the character’s fates are closely intertwined. This is the glue that keeps the whole thing together because the author is all over the place as far as setting is concerned. From Morgan’s Raids in Kentucky to the Fall of Richmond and everything in between, told from the perspective of the individual soldier who sees only the death and destruction in front of him not the grand strategy that determined the outcome of the war.”
Praise for Open Country – A Civil War Novel in Stories
“It would be tempting to discuss Open Country purely in terms of it being a Civil War novel. But to substitute the setting for the ideas and the emotional truths would not do justice to Jeff Richards’ book. That would be too easy. Instead, Open Country strips the circumstances of the war down to its most human level. It is about people trying to make sense of a world suddenly turned inside out. It is about having to make choices in which all decisions may be wrong. It is a place and time where loyalty and trust no longer follow convention. And, most of all, the novel is about the need to find hope when it’s hard to believe hope can still exist. Yes, Jeff Richards’ Open Country may take place during the Civil War, but at its heart the novel shares the drama of human experience as though it is taking place right outside your door. It could be you. It could be me.”
“In the tradition of Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Jeff Richards’ Open Country is a powerful, brutal, beautiful book of stories linked by war and the soldiers struggling to survive amidst its horrors. We follow Blues and Grays, wives and widows, worried mothers and grieving fathers, the doomed and the redeemed, the victorious and the condemned. This extraordinary book about the American Civil War offers both the concision of the well-made story and the sweep of the epic. A remarkable achievement.”
“Jeff Richards draws on the moments of intimate happenstance that so marked this peculiar war, in which whole histories shifted in quiet entanglements in thickets and creek beds, and a single line of a banjo tune might speak simultaneously of a loved one both arriving and departing.”
"The true value of a good novel, especially one written in another place and time, is whether or not it makes you believe you are there. As in great dramatic acting in film or theatre, do you empathize with the characters and are they authentic? Jeff Richards accomplishes that in his short, but epic novel, Open Country. Artfully written and musical in its cadence, I could hear the soundtrack as I read. Stark and tragic and as rustic as the hardtack and whiskey in its story, Open Country is a must read, lest we forget."
“The Civil War was America's bitterest family quarrel, and Jeff Richards's stories gracefully place the huge events of the war into human context. Anyone who loves the American story will treasure these stories as well.”
“Open Country is a meticulously researched novel about the Civil War and its harrowing effects on families. Here are eighteen stories of Rebel “butternuts” and Yankee “bluebellies” who, despite being on opposing sides of battle, are also cousins, fathers and sons, brothers. Jeff Richards has written a moving meditation on the ways we can be made to ignore the humanity of those we see as enemies. As one character says, “Sad thing when two old comrades come to blows.” The moral complexities of duty to a cause versus family ties are vividly revealed thanks to the book’s authentic recreation of language, weaponry, dress, food, and mores of the time. Any Civil War buff will find this a fascinating read. "
"With unflinching honesty, Jeff Richards leads us through the horror and fervor of the Civil War, giving us both Confederate and Yankee perspectives. We join ranks with young soldiers and their loved ones as they experience the stunned sorrow of loss, the loyalty of friendship, and the gentle grasp of love. Richards lulls yet agitates the heart as the war shapes each character.”
"Epic and intimate in equal measure, Jeff Richards' linked stories deftly illuminate the ties that bound ordinary folk together--kin to kin, solider to soldier, men to women, and, yes, North to South--all the while never flinching from the cold reality of the conflict. Sweet as the sound of a bugle at sunset and sharp as the point of a fixed bayonet, Open Country is a unique, bighearted tale of the Civil War, a bracing narrative pleasure."