The Last of What I Am

We rated this book:


The Last of What I Am is the story of Tom Smiley, a soldier in the Confederate army. He begins his tale when a young couple begins renovating the family home where his ghost is currently residing. His tale spans the civil war and all those affected by it. Living on a farm in Virginia that dealt mostly with grain, his family didn’t own any slaves. And yet, Tom was caught up in the excitement of fighting for the South, before he realized the horror of what they were fighting for. Tom tells of his moral struggles to remain in the army when he knows he faces consequences if he deserts. Eventually, he is captured by the Union and imprisoned for a year in horrible conditions. The house’s owner, Phoebe, attempts to help him with his grief, shame, and sorrow of fighting a war he didn’t agree with and those he lost along the way for Tom to finally find peace.

This was an incredibly moving piece of historical fiction. You have to be completely hard-hearted not to get emotional in this tale. I couldn’t help but cry at Mary’s description of a slave auction. It still seems incredible that people can do that to one another. I’m not sure how I can understand how people think that we are inherently good when you read of terrible things like that. I thought the author did a brilliant job of depicting life from a soldier’s point of view, especially one who fought for something so wrong and yet didn’t agree with it. I imagine there were many people like that in the Civil War as well as Germans forced to fight in Hitler’s army while not agreeing with his choices. I found it staggering when the author states that “seventy-five percent of the entire South didn’t own a slave but were forced to defend it with the draft.” You could feel the desperation of those who disagreed but didn’t want to die or have their families harmed. Neither side was innocent of atrocious acts committed against their fellow humans. The scenes from Tom’s imprisonment make that very clear. You would think the guards would remember what they’re fighting for and treat their prisoners with some compassion, but it’s so easy for us to find reasons to hate each other and decide some of us are less than human. Overall, I would highly recommend this to fans of historical fiction. It’s an excellent chance to walk in someone else’s shoes and see history from another’s point of view.

Reviewed By:

Author Abigail Cutter
Star Count 4.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 310 pages
Publisher Union Square & Co
Publish Date 19-Sep-2023
ISBN 9781454951780
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue October 2023
Category Historical Fiction