The Alabama Rebel: A Novel of Courage Amid Conflict. R. Thomas Roe. Signalman Publishing. October 12, 2012. 286 pp. pbk. ISBN#: 9781935991817.
River Hunter is an unusual character, the son of a Scottish father and Cherokee mother who has been raised to live by Native American Indian or Cherokee morals and values. His father disappeared when River was a young boy but he knows he was a good man. His mother and sister live with a slave and her son who are treated as equals in their home, a most unusual state in this pre-Civil War times. River is mocked because he is proud of his Indian heritage and dresses in animal skins that he has sewn into handsome suits. Moreover, his behavior unnerves those who would normally persecute and malign him because he is so well-mannered and goal oriented. He values getting ahead and makes careful plans one step at a time to get a college education and eventually attend law school, all of this without any money to support him but with the audacious get-up-and-go plans that help him obtain the finances to obtain his dreams. River is a superb hunter who never kills for sport and always respects the lives of the animals; his favorite spot seems to be a sacred one where animals observe and even come close to him but never harm him.
Life becomes dramatic when he falls in love with the daughter of a plantation owner in Alabama. She remains his friend but must marry someone else for reasons to do with the family fortune. The Civil War then begins with River demonstrating great courage and skills for which he is repeatedly promoted. The War changes him forever as he has now seen death in its most grisly form and actions that do far from show the noble nature of men. Later he will marry and become an adopted father to his former love’s son. The actions of victors after the Civil War again show the base nature of men who won the war but not the will to keep things the way they’ve always been.
This novel is a bit of an enigma. It dramatically succeeds in spite of somewhat stilted language and the fact that River comes across as a character too good and perfect to be credible. At other times the author uses language clearly not of the times in which he is writing. Yet even with these limitations, The Alabama Rebel is a fine work of historical fiction depicting perilous times in which men and women sought to remain dignified in the midst of terrible prejudice, to get ahead when the lines between prosperity and poverty were huge, and when it was easier to fight than give up political positions that caused suffering for so many human beings of a different race or political party.