9781938467691

THE OCCUPATION OF ELIZA GOODE

Shelley Fraser Mickle

Eliza Goode is born into a New Orleans’ parlor house in the mid 1800s. Sold as a courtesan on her seventeenth birthday, she flees her arranged future at the outbreak of the Civil War. She is passed up through Mississippi’s plantations from one slave quarters to another until she emerges at the Confederates’

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Eliza Goode is born into a New Orleans’ parlor house in the mid 1800s. Sold as a courtesan on her seventeenth birthday, she flees her arranged future at the outbreak of the Civil War. She is passed up through Mississippi’s plantations from one slave quarters to another until she emerges at the Confederates’ Camp Corinth and is swept along to the battle of Manassas.

Along the way, she meets Bennett McFerrin and his wife, Rissa, who follows her husband to war. Using guile and her extraordinary beauty, Eliza transforms herself from camp follower prostitute to laundress, nurse, and caregiver to Rissa when Bennett is taken prisoner by Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Fort Donelson in Clarksville, Tennessee. Her final transformation frees her from her past.

Eliza’s story is more than a tale of war, transcendence, and hardship. It is a story told in modern times by Susan Masters, a novelist in Boston, whose cousin, Hadley, finds Eliza’s letters in an attic and implores Susan to write Eliza’s story to answer questions she seeks for her own life. Hadley has a shameful secret of her own—a past, about which she cannot even bring herself to speak.

Set in the second summer of the Iraq war and three years after 9/11, this is not your usual Civil War novel. This story says much about how we became who we are, and who we might have become, had the Civil War not saved us as a nation.

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Price: $17.95

ISBN: 9781938467691

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About Shelley Fraser Mickle

Shelley Fraser Mickle is an award winning novelist and NPR commentator whose family history (everyone in her family was named after Robert E. Lee) led her to the lifelong belief that one day she would write a Civil War novel. Shelley’s debut novel was a New York Times Notable Book; her second became a CBS/Hallmark Channel movie; and her third became a suicide prevention tool in high schools, winning the 2006 Florida Governor’s Award for suicide prevention in an educational setting. She was invited to be a commentator for NPR’s “Morning Edition” in 2000. Her radio essays can be heard at NPR.org. She is also the author of the children’s classic, Barbaro, America’s Horse. She is a nominee to the 2014 Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.

Praise

“Shelley Fraser Mickle does it again. She writes a work of fiction that feels truer that non-fiction that feels truer thatn non-fiction—a page-turner that after the last page is turned, stays with you. Her stories are really about all of us and how our individual and collective history has changed us. And she does it with humor, compassion, and lovely prose. As a member of a book club for 20 years, this will be my first recommendation. As a film producer, I say to all who are in love with story, you must read this book.”—Dale Eldridge Kaye, CEO, Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group, Partner-Blind Pig Productions

“Shelley Fraser Mickle does it again. She writes a work of fiction that feels truer that non-fiction that feels truer thatn non-fiction—a page-turner that after the last page is turned, stays with you. Her stories are really about all of us and how our individual and collective history has changed us. And she does it with humor, compassion, and lovely prose. As a member of a book club for 20 years, this will be my first recommendation. As a film producer, I say to all who are in love with story, you must read this book.”—Dale Eldridge Kaye, CEO, Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group, Partner-Blind Pig Productions

Discussion Questions

As the author researched the history for this novel, she passed on extraordinary information, such as that several in Lincoln’s cabinet wanted to let the South go and expand into Canada, creating a separate nation with that land acquisition; also that germ warfare was attempted by trying to release a yellow fever epidemic in Washington, D.C. Did these facts astonish you too? Were there other facts that you learned, expanding your knowledge of the Civil War and your realization of how it changed America?

Hadley has a hard, sad life. When you learn what is driving her, is there information about her daily challenges that is new to you?

When Rissa dies and Eliza takes over Rissa’s identity in the letters she writes to Bennett, do you view her act as immoral or generous? What are all the ways in which her act can be viewed? How much of loving someone is the desire to protect them?

There are many mothers in this story. How are they each different and what do they share: Eliza’s mother, Hadley’s mother, and then Hadley as a mother herself, as well as Eliza?

Susan realizes that Eliza was a marvelous storyteller, just as she attempts to be. Hadley places her faith in the power of story to inform her life. Is the power of story diminishing in our present culture? Are there stories that influence your life?

What in reading this book will you remember as part of your identity as an American?