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Zachariah is eventually taken away to a Union prison camp, and Carrie and John McGavock proceed with their lives. Franklin, Tennessee, is a different place after the war, with the social order turned on its head. But despite crushing debt that necessitates selling off large portions of Carnton, the McGavocks remain on their plantation, and Mariah, no longer a slave, opts to stay with them as something between servant and friend.

A while after the cessation of hostilities, they hear that the field where the bodies of almost 1500 Confederates were hastily buried in shallow graves, is about to be plowed under and planted. Carrie and John arrange for the bodies to be exhumed and reburied in one of Carnton’s fields, in proper graves with wooden markers. Where they are able, they identify the dead, and Carrie doggedly tracks down the names of their family members, writing letters to each. For many whom she tended, she is able to write of the men’s last hours, assuring their relatives that their loved ones did not die alone. Carrie, dressed as always in mourning, takes in orphans and tends the cemetery until her death in 1905.

The real-life Carrie became quite famous as The Widow of the South, a living symbol, the author says, of the grief brought to our nation by that terrible war.

There is much to recommend about this book, but somehow I wish the catalyst that brought Carrie out of her self-absorbed depression could have taken the form of something other than Zachariah, even though he is an undeniably well-written character. Carrie’s obsession with death and her predilection for mourning make her a far more interesting, dark, and complex character than merely a discontented wife who falls for a wounded soldier. This reader was never able to figure out what on earth they saw in each other.

JS

Healthy Aging
by Andrew Weil, M.D., ©2005
Published by Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, 240 pp

At last, we have a book on aging that doesn’t make wild claims or off-the-wall promises, or promote this society’s absurd preoccupation with trying to stay young. Part One of Healthy Aging is concerned with the aging process itself, and Weil offers much good information based on sound medical research.

His first chapter is titled “Immortality,” and in it he guides us through what it might mean, on both cellular and psychological levels, to live eternally. By the time he is through, only an idiot would want to live forever.

Instead, Weil discusses the value of aging, and proceeds to lay out his plan for ways to age gracefully. These ways lead to good health for many years, followed by a short period of decline, and then death, which is, no matter how we may fight it, inevitable for all living things. Weil finds real value in aging, value which anyone who has ever enjoyed the presence of a lively, ancient relative will recognize.

Part Two of this book offers Weil’s 12-step plan for aging well. Comparing human beings to fine wines, cheeses, and trees may seem amusing, but Dr. Weil‘s point that aging can bring reward is well taken. His discourse on supplements, foods, herbs, etc. is detailed and helpful. The 12-step plan itself seems sound, bolstered as it is with common sense, medical research, and spiritual awareness.

Healthy Aging’s good advice may come a bit late for those who are well-up in age, but late is better than never. Certainly it is a book that will benefit younger readers, and I wish I had found it in my 40’s. If I had, I might have better knee joints now!

JS

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© 2005 Julia Sneden for SeniorWomenWeb
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