Thursday, November 05, 2015

Mrs. Lee’s Rose Garden: Book Review

by Dr. James R. Brooks

In Mrs. Lee’s Rose Garden (2015, Cider Mill Press Book Publishers), Carlo Devito provides a glimpse at the grandeur, guffaw, and grizzle of the Civil War.  Surprisingly, Devito does not appear to be aware of the power in the story he shares for fails to seize upon it.  Rather, Devito seems obsessed with Arlington which is in line with most of the characters he illumines.  Maybe that is more true to the human experience of the war.

As I read this book whose pages turn quickly, I anticipated critique of the vengeful ways we vent our grief in the guise of justice.  The taking of Arlington from its rightful owners is more in this vein than in that of the Lincoln intent to reconcile the warring sides.  I hoped for a more complex discussion of justice brought down upon the sesscionists, especially their leadership, exemplified at Arlington.  Even more, my patriotic and optimistic self desired a treatment of our ability to transform a symbol of the war’s brokenness into a solemn and sacred place of peace.  A simple comparison to Gettysburg would have added depth to this book.  Alas, I was left wanting.

To my surprise, it was quite enjoyable to read this tale as if I were standing in the rose garden.  For those who have enjoyed a guided tour of our national parks, this book is as if you had more time to ask questions of a seasoned and learned docent.  The history buff will be delighted with the backstory details so often missing from history texts.  This is the strength of the book and the reason it was a joy to read to the end.

I do recommend this book.  Thankful am I for having read it will make my next visit to Arlington more meaningful.  Thankful for my Mother, who gave me the book with whom I share a love for history, especially the Civil War.