Colors of Truth (Carnton, # 1)
By: Tamera Alexander
Publication: July 7th 2020 by Thomas Nelson (Update: Expected Publication: October 6th 2020)
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
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Goodreads description--Based on the real history of Carnton, an antebellum home that served as a Confederate hospital, Colors of Truth follows the journey of an Irish immigrant arriving in a country where her kind isn't wanted, and of a former Federal soldier returning to the scene of a battle that almost destroyed him.
In 1866 Catriona O'Toole arrives in the town of Franklin, Tennessee, searching for her younger brother, Ryan, who, according to his last letter, was headed for Franklin only days before the catastrophic Battle of Franklin. Ryan's last note contained a stack of cash--enough money to bring his entire family across the ocean from Ireland. But after disease and illness tear through County Antrim and the O'Toole family, only Catriona and her seven-year old sister Nora are left to make the journey.
Wade Cunningham, one of ten operatives in the newly formed United States Secret Service Agency, is on the hunt for counterfeiters. A tip leads him to Franklin and to Carnton, the home of wealthy Tennessean John McGavock. The recent murder of a fellow agent mandates that Wade keep his true identity hidden, as well as his past service in the Federal Army. But when he receives a note bearing only the name of the deceased agent, he realizes someone in town already knows who he really is.
As evidence in the case mounts, it eventually points to Catriona, but Wade is slow to want to believe it. Because his heart is swiftly becoming hers. However, Catriona's sole focus is to find her brother and to provide a home and safety for her sister. In doing that, she somehow finds herself part of a burial committee for the over two thousand Confederate soldiers who were hastily buried in a field following the Battle of Franklin--and her deepest fear is that Ryan's body is among those shallow graves.
Colors of Truth is a timely book. For me anyway. I have in the past shied away from any books that take place around the Civil War era because I don't want to read about racism. But Tamera Alexander blew me away with With this Pledge that I knew I wanted to continue the series. As I type this review, our nation is currently plagued with racial riots and division. And honestly, I'm both heartbroken and unsurprised that we are where we are. On the one hand, so many have shed their blood to ensure that we have, are, and will make progress in loving and viewing one another as equals, despite the color of our skin. On the other hand, there will always be evil in the world. And no matter how much we fight to eradicate murder, rape, racism, or any other evil act, it just won't ever happen. But that doesn't mean the fight to get there isn't worth it.
This topic is so deep and complex and it can ruffle feathers more than just about any other topic I've ever witnessed in my life. In today's culture, we often view people in extremes. Good or evil. Racist or antiracists. We see a person stands for a position that we don't. Pro-life or pro-choice. Democrat or republican. Any person who doesn't fit in the same categories as we do or agree with our position is seen as the enemy. But what Colors of Truth, and really the Carnton series, does such a good job of is showing that people are really just varying shades of gray. Good people can be found on both sides of almost any argument, most any war, most any position. Sometimes things aren't as cut and dry as they appear.
It was interesting to see the world of Carnton through Wade's view. Even though Lizzi was against slavery, she still felt very Southern. She was in a unique position of not supporting the war yet the Confederate soldiers who fought and died were still her people, people she knew personally. Wade fought for the Union. He viewed the Confederate soldiers with a mix of contempt and respect. It was interesting to see that he'd once found it skeptical to believe that some soldiers would fight for the Confederacy while not supporting slavery. But he finds himself in a position of both posing as an ex-Confederate soldier as well as meeting someone who's family fought without supporting the cause because he didn't have a choice. Things, people especially, are rarely black or white (speaking in terms of extreme contrasts and not skin color).
Catroina and her sister Nora are recent immigrants from Ireland. It was interesting to see that the Irish were viewed so negatively during the same period. I wasn't really aware of this since when we study this period in school, the focus is on black and white relations and not much else. Catriona is in search of her brother who was conscripted into the Confederate army immediately upon arriving in South Carolina several years prior. She hasn't heard from him since he mentioned coming to Franklin. So she starts her search for him there. She's doing her best to take care of Nora, her 7-year-old, spunky sister. Nora doesn't make doing so easy at all.
Catroina and Wade's story was complex. Each has so much going on. Catriona is taking care of Nora, looking for Ryan, and comes to realize she's essentially broke and needs to find a place to live and a job to make some money. Wade is working for the Secret Service in search of counterfeiters. He's posing as Carnton's overseer. Both have distanced themselves from God and have to find a way to heal their relationship with him. There's a spark between them, but Catriona is sure Wade is keeping secrets. Wade feels confident that Catriona isn't part of the counterfeiters but just as sure as he is that she's innocent, he's sure that her brother Ryan is guilty.
I didn't have near as many highlights in Colors of Truth as I did in With this Pledge. But here are my favorite quotes:
-Every time she tried being more of a parent to Nora, her efforts ended either with Nora throwing a tantrum or collapsing in sobs. Which only increased her own guilt and made her feel even more of a failure.
I feel that one in my soul.
-He only hoped the deep rifts in this country could soon be healed and that the chasms present for so many years would finally be bridged.
-“I ain’t one to question the Lord’s goodness. But sometimes it sure feels like he can give a body too much to bear, don’t it?”
-“With all the peoples who done lived and died ’fore us, don’t you think the Almighty’s heard just ’bout everything there is to hear? People been railin’ at him since the beginnin’ of time. But he still loved this ol’ world enough to send his only Son to bring us back to him. Don’t that say a lot about him? ’Bout how much he loves us? How much he wants to take care of us?” Catriona tried to smile but couldn’t. “Aye, it does. Until I think about what he did to that only Son while he was here.”
-Way I figure it, one way or the other, give it enough time, and the truth always has its say.
-How could someone who inflicted so deep a wound on your heart still manage to possess a piece of it?
-Aye, they’d both suffered in ways they’d wish on no man or woman. But if God had never led them down those particular paths, they might never have found each other. And whatever he had in store for them— be it prosperity or hardship— they would face it together and look for the blessing in it.
And then probably the best quotes from the entire book were in the Acknowledgements section.
-The United States following the American Civil War was a country divided, a country on the brink of collapse both economically and relationally. Some might say that with current-day divisions in America, we are approaching that same brink again. But we must never forget the abundance of blood spilled for us. Not only by fellow countrymen and women on hallowed battlefields such as that of the Battle of Franklin at Carnton, but far more importantly, at the foot of the blood-soaked cross of Jesus Christ. As long as people inhabit the earth, we will have our differences. But we are all created in the image of God and are therefore his image-bearers. We should treat one another as such, bearing with one another in love, even as we disagree.
-Continue to break me, Lord, until I’m wholly yours.
I do need to mention that I didn't enjoy the dialect in Colors of Truth. I realize dialect can make a story more authentic, but this is a personal preference of mine. It takes me out of a story to read dialogue that's formed or spelled in such a way that's wholly different from our current manner of speaking. It's just not my favorite.
Colors of Truth was really good. I didn't want to stop reading the few times that I needed to. I learned more than I knew before about the history of this period, and I feel more compassion for all those who lived during this time. My heart hurts that we're in the situation we are in our country currently. So much blood was spilled for us to be where we are. More than even enjoying the story (which I certainly did), Colors of Truth gives me much to think about. I'm giving Colors of Truth 4 Stars. Have you read Colors of Truth? What did you think? Let me know!