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"Forgiveness" By: Phillip Kendrick


Author: Phillip Kendrick

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Pages: 195 (Hardcover)

Price: $33.95

Novel Explores the Civil War Through a Young Doctor’s Eyes

The dust jacket copy says that Phillip Kendrick of Mobile’s Eastern Shore has published scientific articles on nurse anesthesia and patient care and has a lifetime interest in the American Civil War. In his Author’s Note, he writes of bicycling often past the Confederate Rest Memorial cemetery in Point Clear where approximately 300 soldiers are buried. Those wounded had been treated at the Grand Hotel, converted to a hospital, but did not survive.

Appropriate then that when Kendrick decided to write his own Civil War novel he fashioned as his narrator a young man, a recent graduate of The University of Virginia in medicine.

“Forgiveness” opens on March 10, 1863. Dr. Travis Lane has been recruited as a surgeon for Mosby’s Rangers, an irregular band that prowled the Shenandoah Valley, attacking Yankee supply lines and being a serious pest.

Although he never officially becomes an officer or puts on a uniform. Dr. Lane is persuaded to join because a military surgeon might perform 20 amputations a day, and really hone his skills as well as discovering new techniques. The stress of war brings developments in surgery.

Because of the destructiveness of the minié ball, amputations were all too common; Lane explains in his first-person account how the procedure is done, step by step, and how anesthesia is delivered to the patients.

Often the patient is first given some whiskey although this may not be a good idea. Then chloroform is administered, drop by drop, onto a cloth that covers a wire mask at a rate of one drop per second or less, if the patient is weak.

Elsewhere, Dr. Lane discusses “soldier’s sickness,” that is addiction to opiates, and further remarks on the free use of opiates, rubbing paregoric, that is opium, onto the gums of crying infants, or taking laudanum for “women’s complaints,” cough, diarrhea, you name it!

Dr. Lane becomes a somewhat ubiquitous figure, like Forrest Gump, operating on the wounded and dying General Stonewall Jackson and later present in Mobile at the testing of the Confederate submarine “The Hunley” where he also delivers a lecture on Masons and the Knights Templar. We are told that In Mobile Lane meets Dr. Josiah Nott, infamous for publishing that “Caucasians and Negroes were created by God as two separate species,” Kendrick tells us.

For a while I thought “Forgiveness” might make a young adult novel, but Lane and his wife are newly married and indulge in a good deal of marital bliss. They plan the evening’s sex play and Lane tells the reader, “Women love acting during sex. It allowed them to be uninhibited. I would say ‘I love what you did last night’ and she would say ‘That wasn’t me. That was Gigi.’”

Kendrick has a done a lot of research, which he intends to make use of. He has Lane explain, in brief, why Great Britain did not aid the Confederacy, the role of cotton in the Deep South, western expansion of free states. Some of the information seems dubious. For example, one character, speaking of some leaders’ flashy uniforms, asserts that in species, like lions, in which males stand out, this “leads to them being the ones attacked by their predators.” Who are the male lions’ predators?

As a novel, “Forgiveness” is only serviceable There is too much exposition and explanation and the dialog is often stiff. There are too few real scenes developed, which is a shame because the material, battlefield and operating room, is intrinsically dramatic.

Nevertheless, some of the bits Kendrick throws in, true or not, are wonderful.

When Dr. Lane is reminded that the ladies are quite fond of Jeb Stuart, he replies “I just wonder if the feeling is mutual,” suggesting General Stuart was a “gal-boy.” You don’t see that every day.

Don Noble’s newest book is Alabama Noir, a collection of original stories by Winston Groom, Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, Brad Watson, and eleven other Alabama authors. 

Don Noble , Ph. D. Chapel Hill, Prof of English, Emeritus, taught American literature at UA for 32 years. He has been the host of the APTV literary interview show "Bookmark" since 1988 and has broadcast a weekly book review for APR since November of 2001, so far about 850 reviews. Noble is the editor of four anthologies of Alabama fiction and the winner of the Alabama state prizes for literary scholarship, service to the humanities and the Governor's Arts Award.
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  • ASCA_Small_logo.pngNow a retired English professor at The University of Alabama, Dr. Noble's specialties are Southern and American literature. He also hosts Bookmark on Alabama Public Television.Don Noble's reviews can be heard most Mondays at 7:45am and 4:44pm. and have been made possible in part through grants from the Alabama State Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the support of The University of Alabama, and from the generous support from our listeners. Thank you!To listen to the audio version of Dr. Noble's reviews, just click on the book title to be taken to the full page. Audio is found either at the very beginning of the transcript or at the bottom of the page.Dr. Noble's Book Reviews are made possible in part with a grant from The Alabama State Council on the Arts,