Highlighting Historical Fiction: Mari Anne Christie’s Blind Tribute
Highlighting Historical has been in hiatus all summer. I’m making an exception today to spotlight a particularly interesting novel. This is the review I will be adding to Amazon and Goodreads.
Blind Tribute takes place during the American Civil War, but it isn’t ABOUT the Civil War. The book is about Harry Wentworth, newspaperman. Harry’s war is deeply personal at the same time it is fundamentally professional. Though Harry has many admirable qualities, readers may not like him much at the beginning. They won’t help, however, but be drawn into this story by his high minded—and somewhat smug— refusal to spout either side’s ideology in his editorials and his determination to be a centrist, as well as by his unusual decision to leave Philadelphia for the heart of the South. I can think of no other work of Civil War related fiction that sets up a character’s ambivalence and conflicting loyalties with insight as deep as this one does. The author cuts to bone and soul before she is finished.
As soon as he arrives in Charleston, SC it becomes clear that Harry’s motivation is more complex than even he realizes. Old friends, old loyalties, and old hurts lurk beneath the surface, even as Harry faces overt hatred, manipulates greed, and flaunts his wealth, legendary history, and contacts. The longstanding conflict that is his personal war never lets up.
On a professional level he champions objectivity in an era in which every politician attempted to control the press. He uses the first amendment like a club to get what he wants from the Union Army. He frames the war in economic terms and leverages it to form a new international financial publication that thrives amid the conflict’s misery.
It is ultimately impossible to hold the center once political and economic positions harden and the extremes of right and left expand to the point of war. Pride and arrogance don’t help, and so Harry discovers when his personal war reaches its catastrophic climax. What he becomes afterward, how he climbs out of his private hell, and how he rebuilds himself professionally form the riveting second half of the story. Revelation and insight come in waves as this book unfolds.
The world she describes is eerily similar to our own, with hardening positions to the right and left on a variety of issues, with daily attacks on the free press by politicians, and with eroding integrity in the media itself. In the middle, we human beings—messy and diverse as we all are—try to keep our balance. Harry’s story illuminates that struggle.
Read this book. You’ll be glad you did.
(I had the privilege of reading an early draft of this book and received an prepublication copy as a result. My review is my free and honest opinion.)
About the Book
As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears. As such, he must finally resolve his own moral quandary: comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?
The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground, as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.
About the Author
Mari Anne Christie was “raised up” in journalism (mostly raising her glass at the Denver Press Club bar) after the advent of the web press, but before the desktop computer. She has since plied her trade as a writer, editor, and designer across many different fields, and currently works as a technical writer and editor.
Mari was born into a family history that virtually demanded she become a writer to tell the stories. If her mother’s ancestors had stayed in Europe (where they belonged), instead of beheading kings, grasping royal coattails, or running off to war to spite their patriarchs, she might be a Lady-with a capital-L, not an irreverent, vulgar American with ill-advised pretensions. If her father’s forebearers hadn’t escaped pogroms and potato famines, and roamed the world in Roma-fashion, she wouldn’t exist at all. With one side traced back to the Norman conquerors before the Battle of Hastings, and the other traced back through the mean streets of New York City, the doors of Ellis Island, and the peasant revolts of Europe, she need only open a family scrapbook for inspiration.
Her first mainstream historical fiction novel, Blind Tribute—based loosely on the life of her great-great uncle—will be released July 28, 2017, and the first title in her upcoming series, The Lion’s Club—based, in part, on her grandmother’s childhood in Brooklyn, New York—is expected in 2018. She has also released a book of poetry, Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness, a modern reinterpretation of the myths of Xibalba, the Mayan underworld. She also reissued a cookbook, A Loaf of Bread, hand-lettered and illustrated by her mother Christie Whaley, before she was born.
She holds a BA in Writing, summa cum laude and With Distinction, from the University of Colorado Denver, and is a member of the Speakeasy Scribes, the Historical Novel Society, and the Denver Press Club. She has a long family history in Charleston, South Carolina, and is the great-great niece of a man in the mold of Harry Wentworth.