Are you looking for a great book to add to your history reading list? If you are studying the Civil War then you might want to get a copy of War-Torn Valley by Joyce Miller. It has a totally different perspective from most recommended books about the Civil War. I wish that I had known about it when we last studied modern history.
Seven years ago today we were just wrapping up a fantastic family trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. On our way there we stopped in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; on our way home we visited Jamestown and Yorktown. The whole trip gave me a very new and real appreciation for American history.
It brought it alive to me in a startling way, opening my eyes to the fact that the two American wars—the Revolutionary War and the Civil War—were both wars that involved people. Intellectually I knew this before, but in the past when I studied these subjects, I was focused on the military leaders, and the campaign movements, and of course the never-ending list of dates, dates, dates.
Homeschooling my children has been a wonderful opportunity for me to re-educate myself, and I am learning so much along the way. Our family “field” trip pressed upon me the reality that there were specific people behind all of the facts. Real men made decisions that affected the destiny of hundreds of thousands of people. Real families were impacted. Real children were deprived of food and shelter.
I remember standing in the cemetery at Gettysburg and feeling a sickening lump form in my stomach as I gazed across the graves. These were real men. Someone’s husband, someone’s father, someone’s brother, someone’s son. It had an impact on my view of war. Reading War-Torn Valley last week for this post brought back that feeling.
It challenged me again to think about our response as Christians to war. How does the Bible instruct us in this area? How can we learn from past mistakes? How can we stand firm for the principles of God in spite of the reality of life going on around us? Check out my review of War-Torn Valley below. I think that you will want to add it to your reading list when you do.
- Title: War-Torn Valley
- Author: Joyce Miller
- Publisher: Rod and Staff Publications
- Genre: Fiction
- Number of Pages: 256
- Theme: Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley
- Age Range: 12 and up
- Source: Milestone Books
Summary of War-Torn Valley
The year is 1861. Lavina Rose Blosser is enjoying the warmth of a June day as she listens intently to the Sunday sermon on the great love of God. The peace of the Weaver’s Church congregation is broken by the sound of horses hooves, and their worship is interrupted by the arrival of soldiers. The reality of the war she had only wondered about previously intrudes into the life of Lavina Rose and her family in ways she never dreamed possible.
The Shenandoah Valley houses a peaceful community of Christians who have been mercifully sheltered from the war that has already been going on around them. Men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five are now required to report for duty or face imprisonment, or worse.
The Blosser family has some hard choices to make. Some men from the church are willing to enlist, but will not bear arms. Some are removing up into the mountains in the hopes that they will not be found. Father decides to go into hiding and Mother struggles to keep up the farm work with the help of her two teenage sons.
After months of sheltering father from the soldiers’ searches, Nathaniel, the oldest son, turns eighteen and the extra person is impossible to hide safely. Through much thought and prayer, both father and son decide to attempt to leave the valley with a group of men heading for safety over the mountains. They have a guide to lead the way, increasing their chances of escape. Will they make it to safety into West Virginia, or will they too be captured and imprisoned like others of their faith? How will the family cope with only young Matthew to do all of the heavy work? How will the provisions last them through the winter with the soldiers constantly taking their supplies?
- Good Qualities – 5/5
- Great Qualities – 4/5
Items of note
- Romance and morality—No issues
- Disturbing content—A case of diphtheria, a wounded soldier, the burning of farm buildings, the slaughter of pigs, and the death of a pet during the hard winter are all portrayed accurately, but not at all graphically. A sensitive child might be concerned, but otherwise the tragedies of the war are discreetly discussed.
- Language—No issues
- Alcohol and drug use—No issues
- Spiritual content—The book is written from an Anabaptist perspective and focuses on the struggle many Christians went through during the Civil war to balance their Christian beliefs with their duty to their country.
- Family roles and Behavior—No issues
- Mature subject matter—I would recommend the book for 12 and up, but as always, this depends on the maturity and sensitivity of the reader. Nothing is graphically portrayed or dwelled on.
The valley of the Shenandoah mountains really did become a “war-torn valley” as both armies used this direct route to gain access to the capital of the other side. If you are interested in seeing a different approach to a war that has had many novels written about it, then I would suggest you add this to your reading list. It would be a great family read aloud for children 12 and up especially as it explores the feelings and responsibilities of all of the children of the family.
As the Blosser family wrestles with the Scriptures in order to make wise decisions, the reader is enabled to examine the issues of non-resistance, submission to authority, faith in God’s provision, and many other spiritual truths. It is a novel that provides lots of opportunity for discussion.
War-Torn Valley is historically accurate, and does a great job of blending the facts of the war into a story that is really about the struggles of one Christian family in the midst of the turmoil of civil war. The fast pace and sometimes thrilling scenes make this well-written book keep your attention all the way through. I only wished there was more when I finished!
This post has been shared on The Art of Homemaking Mondays linkup.
You might also enjoy:
- The Poplar Field by William Cowper
- Great is Thy Faithfulness