The national book launch of “The Occupation of Eliza Goode,” the new novel by Alachua County author Shelley Fraser Mickle, will be held 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, in the lobby of the Fine Arts Hall. Mickle will sign books beginning at 6 p.m. At 7 p.m., she will speak about her new novel and her life as a writer. The event is free and open to the public. All proceeds from book sales will benefit a new Santa Fe College Women of Distinction Scholarship.
The gallantry of a Confederate prisoner of war inspired Mickle to write “The Occupation of Eliza Goode.”
“I have always wanted to write a Civil War book,” Mickle explains, “and I read an anecdote about a rebel soldier who had been captured by General Ulysses S. Grant. The soldier asked to be released to ride into Clarksville, Tennessee, to tend to his sick wife, but pledged to return as Grant’s prisoner. I wondered what would happen if he hired a camp follower-a prostitute-for such a task.”
The book’s central character, Eliza Goode, was born into a New Orleans parlor house in the mid 1800s and sold as a courtesan on her 17th birthday. She rides the Civil War to freedom, transforming herself from camp-follower prostitute to laundress, nurse, and officer’s wife to community activist. The publisher, Koehler Books, calls this “a stunning novel, a culmination of an impressive career-a major contribution to women’s history.”
While the story of Eliza is set in the Civil War, the novel has a modern subplot that involves two cousins, the discovery of Eliza’s letters, and a shameful secret. “Set in the second summer of the Iraq war and three years after 9/11, this is not your usual Civil War novel,” reads the description on Amazon.com. “This story says much about how we became who we are, and who we might have become, had the Civil War not saved us as a nation.”
The novel is garnering stellar reviews. Publishers’ Weekly has described the book as “extraordinary…exquisite Southern storytelling” and it was a Huffington Post pick of the week on November 4, 2013.