Tillie Pierce is a thoughtful, fifteen-year-old young woman, living with her family in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It’s 1863, and the Civil War is touching every town and home with tragedy. Tillie’s is no exception.
She has two brothers fighting in the war, but she receives news that it’s her sister’s sweetheart who has died defending his country against Confederate forces. This shatters Tillie’s faith—she finds it impossible to believe that God, in all of his sovereignty, would allow such horrors to take place.
What Tillie doesn’t know is this is only the beginning, as the Battle of Gettysburg is just around the corner. The Confederate Army arrives three days ahead of the Union soldiers, and they loot, steal, and enslave African American citizens.
Tillie’s parents, devout Christians and staunch abolitionists, encourage her to pray for her enemies, but she can’t speak to a god who won’t stop the war. Where is Christ in all of this? Will Tillie and her family survive the bloody conflict, and will she ever find her faith again?
No Safe Haven is a deeply personal account of a young woman’s struggles through the greatest conflict her country, and her heart, will ever see.
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Maryland. Antietem. The bloodiest day of the war took place a mere fifty miles away. Both armies might find their way to the Commonwealth. No. Father said it won't happen. That's that. Recalling Mr. Brady's photographs near Sharpsburg afterward, Tillie suppressed a shudder.
For a book written mainly for young adult readership, this book is a must-read for adults, as well, especially for those wishing to delve deeply into American Civil War history and the effects the war had on ordinary citizens around Gettysburg. However, the main character, Tillie Pierce is no ordinary young girl or character. The author does an incredible job of developing Tillie's character and revealing her deep-seated beliefs without being too preachy throughout the narrative. While this book leans heavily upon Christian beliefs and morals, using scriptures throughout, the way it is woven into the stark realities of war is quite beautiful and provides a satisfying contrast between good and evil. Along with this, we see the inner turmoil and transition of this innocent young girl faced with the horrors of war which shove her into adulthood, which remind us of so many young people facing the same throughout history, and even today in Europe.
Tillie Pierce is only fifteen and living with her family in Gettysburg in 1863, when the war comes knocking on their doorstep. So many families are losing loved ones in the fight, and when Tillie's family is included in this horrific tragedy, Tillie begins to question the foundations of her own faith in regard to the horrors of this world – how a God of mercy could allow such tragedies to take place? Moody takes this theme and threads it through the entire novel, as well as other thought-provoking questions this young girl struggles with.
Tillie gazed at the destruction, thinking the name appropriate. Valley of Death. Everywhere one turned, dead bodies – men and horses – bloated in the heat. Shattered caisons and cannon, scattered everywhere, some aimed at the sky as though the next attack might come from heaven itself.
As the Battle of Gettysburg approaches, the town and the area is overrun with soldiers from the Confederate Army as they ransack and steal, as well as capture many of the free Black citizens in the area. With Tillie's background, raised as a devout Christian and with her family's abolitionist activity, she struggles to make sense of the questions inundating her mind – why won't God stop the war? And will they survive?
To say this book is deeply personal is not quite enough as the reader truly feels Tillie's anquish. Before the war comes to Gettysburg, most of the things she worried about was learning how to lift her crinoline without showing her ankles or getting the hem muddy, but afterward, her perspective changes in quick order as she wonders how to apply the scripture to 'pray for your enemies' and 'do good'. At the core of the book is the revelation of learning to love, to triumph over hate, and to allow the inherent Christian qualities to permeate life. Tillie is an example of living what she believed without allowing society around her to mold her into someone unrecognizable.
For the first time in her life, she was uncomfortable and a little frightened to be outside... She recalled before the battle – for that was how she thought of things now – walking through the cemetery and listening to the birds as they sang, or the wind sighing through the trees. The absence of these sounds unsettled her.
The reader gets a true sense of Ms Moody's love for the era, and the immense amount of research she did to make the details believable, even when dealing with some pretty intense and gruesome scenes. When the reader gets the true understanding of Tillie's age and the situations she is thrust into, you cannot help but feel the emotional tug and attachment for this actual historical person who witnessed one of the most decisive battles of the Civil War. She watched the Union army march through her town, and later went to a supposed “safe” farmhouse (the Weikert farm) at the base of Little Round Top. During the battle, she provided food and water to the soldiers, assisted surgeries, and cared for the wounded, and later heard the words from President Lincoln, the famous Gettysburg Address which renewed her faith with his words that 'all men are created equal'. Yet, she made the statement - “The whole landscape had been changed and I felt as though we were in a strange and blighted land.” Twenty-five years later, she wrote a book about her experiences during that time - “At Gettysburg, Or What A Girl Saw And Heard Of The Battle”.
Being fifteen-years-old is hard enough on its own, but this young girl shows incredible resiliency and fortitude as she matures in the midst of war. Ms Moody's rich prose and insight into the realities for this young girl offer a reader an incredible page-turning perspective and a worthy inspiring read.
The Lord tells us to pray for our enemies. But I did read tonight that He also wants us to be reconciled to our enemies and to be peacemakers. Some people are not ready yet. In the meantime, you'll need to fill yourself with an enormous amount of grace.
“But I wouldn't change my experience for anything. Those days made me the woman, wife, and mother that I am.”
“No Safe Haven” by Angela Moody receives five stars from The Historical Fiction Company and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence.
Angela Moody is a native Vermonter who grew up in the Burlington area, where she still lives today. There isn’t a time that she doesn’t remember telling stories, whether concocting plays with her friends in the backyard or writing fiction, she’s been hard at work on her craft.
Always a voracious reader, her favorite authors were John Steinbeck, Stephen King, Anya Seton, John Jakes, as well as Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott. Angela would say her biggest influences in her choice of writing were John Jakes and Anya Seton. She is also a huge fan of Bernard Cornwell.
Angela received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and English Literature from Trinity College of Vermont—now part of the University of Vermont. Angela lives with her husband, Jim. Her children are grown and living successful lives of their own.
She has been writing historical fiction for more than twenty years. She is currently hard at work on her next novel, due out in fall of 2021.
No Safe Haven is her debut novel. Angela is a tour guide, as well as a member of the Board of Directors at the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum, in Burlington, Vermont.