John Genest's Reviews > Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War

Purgatory by Jeff Mann
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M 50x66
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Mar 17, 2012

really liked it

During the Civil War, a Yankee named Drew is caught by Confederate soldiers and made to endure bindings and beatings by its seargeant's command. By night, he is clandestinely fed and cared for by the sergeant's nephew, Ian, who falls in love with his hulking charge and does not want to dig his grave like the four prisoners that preceded him. This is the plot of Jeff Mann's Purgatory, so named for the mountain where Drew is destined to die, but also analagous of suffering in hopes to be free.

Much like war, there are many battles Ian fights within himself in this novel: loyalty toward his uncle and his new love; the sorrow and arousal he feels in binding Drew and watching him be scourged; and the desire to comfort him at odds with the orders he must obey. These are brought to visceral life by Mann, where every comfort is devoured before the next onslaught and a palpable tension is created that time, and luck, are running out for these two lovers.

As I read this book, I was led to wonder: if Drew and Ian succeeded in escaping the unit and the War, what kind of lives could they lead together in the 1860's South, where the name their love dares not speak is "sodomite"? In an anachronistic manner similar to another story set a century later of two sheepherders in Wyoming who also retreated to a particular mountain, Purgatory tells a very personal story of two men struggling to overcome their circumstances and societal restrictions after which we can now breathe a sign of relief in the freedoms we have been afforded.
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