By Paulette Jiles
Published by Harperperennial Library
January 2003 in PB; 0060938099; 336 pages
Oct. 29, 1864
It was the third year of the war and by now there was hardly anybody left in the country except the women and the children. The men were gone with Colonel Reeves to live in the forests, and many families had fled to Texas or St. Louis. Abandoned house places looked out with blank windows from every hollow and valley in the Ozark mountains so that at night the wind sang through the disintegrating chinking as if through a bone flute.
Adair Colley had just turned eighteen in early November of 1864 when the Union Militia arrested her father and tried to set the house on fire. Her sister Savannah saw them first; a long line of riders in blue trotting in double column as they turned into the road that led to the Colley farm.
All through the last three years of the war Adair's father had tried to keep his children close to home. Because he was a justice of the peace, he was called Squire, and the newspapers he subscribed to came addressed to Squire M.L. Colley. Her father had determined to stay out of the war and keep his children out of the reach of soldiers of either army and he had succeeded in this for three years. He read in the Little Rock paper that the Missouri Union Militia was being thrown together out of troops dredged up from the riverfronts of St. Louis and Alton, from the muddy Missouri River towns. Men who joined up for a keg of whiskey and five dollars a month.
The trained and disciplined Union troops had long ago been sent to the battlefields of the East, to Virginia and Tennessee, while the hastily recruited Militia had been sent down into the Ozarks to chastise the families whose men had gone to the Southern Army, to catch and arrest them when they returned from their six-month enlistments, and to punish those who might be suspected of harboring Southern sympathies.
Adair's father did not know what the law was on this matter, concerning men who had been in the Southern Army and had returned home and were soldiers no longer, or those who had never joined up at all but had no means of proving it. But it was no matter, for the Union Militia knew no law. After they burnt down the courthouses they then began to ambush the mail carriers, so the southeastern Ozarks seemed a place cut off from the entire world.
Adair's father read to them in the evenings out of the rare newspaper he managed to acquire, the Memphis Appeal and the St. Louis Democrat. Adair sat on the clothes trunk to stare at the fire and listen to the inflamed prose of the Democrat. She would rather he read the racing news from the Nashville paper, for she wanted to hear if Copperbottom's sons were running but the war consumed everything, even human thoughts and horse races.
There are four main rivers coming down out of the southeastern Missouri Ozarks into the Mississippi. They are the Eleven-Point, the Current, the Black, and the Saint Francis. For three years Adair had seen at a distance soldiers of both armies riding up these river valleys in search of one another. Her brother, John Lee, rode to the ridges to stand watch for them every morning, for the Fifteenth Missouri Cavalry under Colonel Reeves would take your horses as quick as would any Militia. He watched for their smoke, at dawn when the soldiers would be lighting their breakfast fires. He did not go to war himself for he had a withered arm. So the Union Militia raided and set fire to the outlying places all around the Colley farm but continued somehow to miss them.
All through this time Adair's father remained absorbed in his books of law, his newspapers passed from hand to hand down the Wire Road or the Nachitoches Trace by...
For the Colleys of southeastern Missouri, the War between the States is a plague that threatens devastation, despite the family's avowed neutrality. For eighteen-year-old Adair Colley, it is a nightmare that tears apart her family and forces her and her sisters to flee.
The treachery of a fellow traveler, however, brings about her arrest, and she is caged with the criminal and deranged in a filthy women's prison. But young Adair finds that love can live even in a place of horror and despair. Her interrogator, a Union major, falls in love with her and vows to return for her when the fighting is over. Before he leaves for battle, he bestows upon her a precious gift: freedom.
Now an escaped "enemy woman," Adair must make her harrowing way south buoyed by a promise ... seeking a home and a family that may be nothing more than a memory.(back to top)
Paulette Jiles was born in 1943 in Salem, Missouri and raised in the Missouri Ozarks. She graduated with a degree in Spanish literature from the University of Illinois. In 1969, she moved to Canada, where she spent eight years as a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation journalist in a small town in northern Ontario. In 1985, Jiles won the Governor-General's Award for her collection of poetry "Celestial Navigation."
As an award-winning poet and memoirist, the idea for Jiles' first novel, Enemy Women, sprang from research she was conducting into her own family's past during the Civil War in the Ozarks. Jiles recounts her Canadian experiences in the book "North Spirit" (1995). She has also published "The Jesse James Poems," a retelling of that well-established tradition from her native Missouri and is currently working on a two volume Civil War novel.
Jiles has dual citizenship with Canada and currently lives with her husband in San Antonio, Texas.