In 1861 the Civil War reached the mountainous South - where the enemy was your neighbor, the victims were your friends, and the wrong army was whichever one you joined. When Malinda Blalock's husband, Keith, joined the army, she dressed as a boy and went with him. They spent the war close to home in the North Carolina mountains, acting as Union guerilla fighters, raiding the farms of Confederate sympathizers and making as much trouble as they could locally. As hard riding, deadly out-laws, Keith and Malinda avenged Confederate raids on their kin and neighbors. McCrumb also brings to her story the larger-than-life narrative of the historical political figure Zebulon Vance, a self-made man and Confederate governor, who was from the mountains and fought for the interests of Appalachia within the hierarchy of the Confederacy.
Linking the forces of historical unrest with the present-day stories of mountain wisefolk Rattler and Nora Bonesteel, McCrumb weaves two overlapping narratives. It is up to Nora Bonesteel and Rattler to calm the Civil War ghosts who are still wandering the mountains, and prevent a clash between the living and the dead.
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