secessia kent wascom

Secessia by Kent Wascom

Secessia by Kent WascomSecessia by Kent Wascom
Published by Grove Atlantic on July 7th 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 288
Buy from IndieBound


When New Orleans falls to the Union in the middle of 1962, twelve year-old Joseph Woolsack’s life is suddenly changed. His city is under the tightening grip of Union commander General Benjamin “the Beast” Butler while his father dies of mysterious circumstances, which leaves his mother, Elise, both questioning and questioned. A mixed-race woman passing as white, Elise’s situation grows intense after the death of her husband, as she attempts to hold on to her son and her position in a rapidly evolving, violent city.

As in Kent Wascom’s debut novel, The Blood of Heaven, which I loved, most everything in Secessia is grand. The novel’s key characters are all larger than life, with big personalities that are just as easy to fall into as the grimy, dangerous streets of New Orleans. But it’s the way Wascom writes those characters and streets that sets his books apart. Though his words are as grandiose as the images they convey, each one is delicately placed to create a cadence that begs the reader to slow down and enjoy the ride.

“Nine hundred and fifty days before she will bear brightness again. A year and a half before she may trim collar or cuff in white; two years before the allowance of gray; an interminable afterward while color is slowly introduced. She has seen girls married off at seventeen and within months were made gloom-shrouded avatars for husbands who’d done not more than bloody a good set of sheets. And there were those girls, low or high, who themselves died, and for whom husbands dutifully adhered to the widower’s tradition: a black armband on their usual suits. Worn for how long, she cannot say. There are fewer rules for men.”

So much historical fiction seems posed—almost as if it must bend to fit the genre—but the writing here feels more like a necessity. Secessia reads like an outpouring of fascination and love for the past with little concern for convention, which only solidifies Kent Wascom’s unique place in the literary landscape.


  • Susan W

    I just finished listening to the Book Riot podcast ‘All the Books’ where they talk about new releases of the week, and they were raving about his book. And because it rings oh so many of my bells, I immediately mark it down as a TBR. Then to open your entry today and see the same book, well, the book world is really trying to let me know something. Noted universe, noted.

  • I had not heard of this one, but I love Civil War, and that’s a great cover, which always grabs me. Thanks for the review. I like your new header, too.

  • Definitely adding this to my TBR. Loving the new design by the way :)

  • I have never heard of this guy. Thanks for fixing that!

  • Oh, and New Orleans as the backdrop? This sounds exciting, Shannon; thanks for the recommendation!

  • I have trouble with historical fiction for the “bend to its genre” feel you mention. Yet I *am* interested in it. This sounds like a good book to take a chance on. :)

  • Amanda

    This cover totally draws me in and you’ve sold me to add this to my TBR for sure.

  • I’m in Monika’s camp. Not really a historical fiction fan, but this one sounds intriguing. I see you’ve changed your site again, Sybil. Looking good! ;)

    • The language in this one really fits the time period and it’s super dark/dirty. Definitely not your typical historical fiction. Hahaha, you kill me. Yeah, it was a bit of a mistake trying to test out a theme I bought followed by an early morning near-disaster yesterday. Thankfully, I got everything squared away.

      • You know how unfair it is to bring out the “dark/dirty” description, right? Can I read this one first or should I go back to Blood?

        I have so far to go on “testing” things. It gives me hives just trying to change the color of my quote box. I’m always afraid I’m going to screw something up irrevocably. The “revert” and “save without changes” buttons are my saviors. I’ve liked all of your themes, but since there were row houses when Steve first pointed me here, I’m kinda partial to them. I would like to live in that one on the right.

        • My gut tells me you’d like The Blood of Heaven more. And speaking of Steve, I actually met him at a reading for that book – I’m sure he’d tell you to give it a shot, too ;)

          • Sigh. You know I’m going to whine about that one being twice as long, right? :)

  • Yes – I’ve not spotted this in the UK yet but I’m already intrigued! It’d better appear here!

  • I wasn’t quite sure about this one, but you make it sound fantastic!

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