Saturday, August 18, 2012

Beneath the Slashings by Michelle Isenhoff: Book Review

Beneath the Slashings is the last book in the Divided Decade Trilogy, set in the Civil War. But the trilogy is a series of stand-alone novels, so you need not read the first two. Here’s a synopsis of Beneath the Slashings:

After four uncertain years of war, twelve-year-old Grace Nickerson is desperate to return to a sense of normalcy. But soon after her father returns, he sells the farm and drags the family to a lumber camp in Michigan’s northern wilderness.

Living among the rough loggers is frightening enough, but then a series of accidents prove intentional. Who is sabotaging the camp, and why? Will the winter in the woods bring the healing Grace’s family needs? Or will it drive a wedge between Grace and her father? 

My thoughts:  Beneath the Slashings deals with a family in crisis resulting from the aftermath of the Civil War.  It opens in 1865.  Pa is returning from the war and plans to move his family, Grace and Sam, to the northern woods into a desolate logging camp.  The practice of logging at that period was one of slashing all the trees and leaving the land destroyed.  However, one thought was that it would be partially cleared for the onslaught of homesteaders headed that way.

Although Ms. Isenhoff writes fiction for the entertainment of middle school students, it is quite evident to the reader that a major intent is to also present lessons that can be learned from history, culture, and life in general.  Ms. Isenhoff writes skillfully using beautiful word pictures that capture the attention of the young reader (and any adults who happen to pick up her books as well).  The interaction of the children in the story with each other and with those around them will be that which a middle school student will not find stilted and out of age character. They will totally relate to the action.

Now what is to be learned from Beneath the Slashings?
  1. Logging Camps:  A detailed picture is given of life in a logging camp during 1865.  It was rough and really not the place for a young girl. Baths were scarce but food was plentiful.  Work was hard and long but there was a bit of fun thrown in.  Terms used for activities involved in the work of felling trees and getting them out of the woods are woven right in conversations.
  2. Racial:  This story takes place immediately following the Civil War and the issue of freed slaves and their relationships and working with non-blacks was not very well liked by some even in the north woods at that time.  As head of the logging camp, "Pa," dealt with the issue sternly but with grace.
  3. Indian Life:  Grace meets an old Indian woman who teaches Grace kindness, understanding, forgiveness, anger control, and the old ways of the Indian.  Ms. Isenhoff writes an elegant word pictures and describing each action from healing arts to leather work in detail yet not boringly.
As with the other books written by Michelle Isenhoff, I can highly recommend Beneath the Slashings.

Other books by Michelle Isenhoff reviewed here on Chat With Vera are:  Candle Star (see my review by clicking here)--Civil War 1858, was book one in the Divided Decade triology.  Broken Ladders (Book 2 in the Divided Decade), and The Color of Freedom. (Revolutionary War).

The author Michelle Isenhoff says.... So what do I write? Three words: ADVENTURE - I won't read a story that doesn't transport me to a new, exciting world. I won't write one, either. INNOCENCE - My target audiences range from 9 to 15. Kids. I won't market profanity or controversy. And SUBSTANCE - I prefer stories with some depth to them.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Beneath the Slashings in order to facilitate a review.  I was not obligated to give a positive account.  All opinions expressed are my own.


  1. Thank you, Vera, for this lovely, detailed synopsis of my book. I'm glad you found the series enjoyable, and I appreciate you passing along the word. :)

  2. Vera, excellent review. One of the best I've read. Liked how you broke down three major themes and issues of that time and expanded upon them. Loved Michele's trilogy and the final book.


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