I discovered Robert Hicks after
Widow of the South. In A Separate Country, the author opens the story with General
Hood dying of Yellow Fever; his Creole wife, Anna Marie, is already dead. Hood makes a request
(really a demand) of Eli Griffin. After the war Eli came to New Orleans to kill the General.
A priest brought them together after the murder attempt and they got to know each other in a
different light. The General saved Eli from prison, now he wants Eli to retrieve his journals,
take them to a certain man, and ask the man if "the mark of the devil" has been removed from
him (Gen. Hood). Mind you these are personal journals, not the War book. Hood tells Eli to
find the War Book and burn it because he’s accepted his mistakes during the War. This gives
listeners a clue that Hood is a dying man desperate to reveal a more current, shocking truth
and desperately seeking forgiveness. Through the story of their lives, this mystery slowly
unravels. Eli also retrieves Anna Marie’s ledgers. Anna Marie wrote to daughter Lydia about
the General, her life, and the incident that changed her view of life and New Orleans forever.
Robert Hick pens historical dialogue in such detail one can’t help but wonder if he’s
channeling historical spirits. Hicks gives readers a descriptively rich story during a
financially difficult and emotional period in America’s history. The author’s words flow
beautifully—drawing the listener in—to experience not only the characters’ lives,
but the sight, sound, and feel of New Orleans during the late 1800s.
I really appreciate three narrators with the audio version. Their voices separate the main
characters, making the listening experience even more pleasant. To experience Hicks’ writing
for yourself I highly recommend reading or listening to an excerpt at Hachette’s website.