Weigenstein takes a look at the effects of war on community
Daybreak, a utopian community in Arkansas based on democracy and equality, is torn apart, like the nation during the American Civil War. Charlotte Turner becomes the leader of the community when her husband and the older men leave the community to fight, some for the Union, some for the Confederacy. The community is not healed when the surviving men return, as the men have been changed by their experiences as have the women and children they left behind.
Weigenstein develops the story by showing how the people try to reintegrate around the old conflicts before the war, and to heal the scars from during the war. Each person–Charlotte, Emily, Flynn, James–has relationships to rebuild, wounds to heal, and none of them is like they were before. The devastation of the land by both sides and the neglect due to not having the manpower to manage the community adds more strain.
Then some people do not want the war to end, as they enjoy the excitement, the lack of rules, so the reader sees the birth of what eventually will become the Ku Klux Klan. Made up of bushwhackers, these are men who are not part of the community, but who are more interested in doing whatever they want, drinking, setting fires, lynching people they object to, such as formerly enslaved people and Native Americans.
Weigenstein writes from the history of his family and the area where the story takes place. He provides a few maps of the area to help the reader visualize the landscape, and he describes the way of life in sufficient detail to make it easy to visualize and be in the story.
I was given a galley proof of this book in exchange for an honest review. This Old World by Steven Weigenstein is available at amazon.com