Reviewed by Jessi Lewis
Here and Again is the story of the widow Virginia (Ginger) Martin, the repercussions of her husband’s death in the Iraq War, and how her loss is a repetition of grief from other generations. Through Ginger’s familial struggles with her three children, the reader is introduced to the parallels of loss. While Ginger grieves, so too does the ghost of Samuel, a casualty of the Civil War searching for his lost fiancée. The emotional draw of the novel is best shown by Ginger’s aching memories of her husband and her love for his obsession with the past.
As Ginger happens to meet Samuel’s ghost again and again throughout the novel, he comes to help her and her three children to recognize the value of the farm they own. His influence reveals a great romanticism of the Civil War era—the maintenance of family and homestead against all odds. While Ginger works as a nurse in a rural West Virginia emergency room, she meets a collection of characters who each come to help her over time. Fate has a significant influence: many seemingly disconnected elements of the plot line up to help Ginger and her family get back on their feet.
The author has done her homework when it comes to battles of the Civil War and geographic landmarks with which both Ginger and Samuel are familiar. Mentions of Manassas, Winchester, Harrisonburg, and Cedar Creek, among others, and detailed letters from Samuel to his lost love, Juliette, reveal the journey a Civil War soldier took—primarily on foot—throughout the state of Virginia. Through these parallels with Ginger’s life in modern Virginia, the reader also gets a sense of what is maintained and what is lost across generations. Ginger notes her dedication to Osbee, her husband’s grandmother, and how this relationship reflects old Southern family values. At the same time, she struggles to justify educating her children at home, though Samuel recommends it for a farming family.
Dickson’s writing moves quickly as the reader’s investment in Ginger’s life is enhanced with each scene. She is the true hero here—the woman who can stretch herself far too thin between money and family, who can uphold values and reveal both her toughness and emotional response in a single scene. In many ways, Ginger’s reaction to someone vomiting in her car is just as telling about her practicality as her willing phone conversations with her impractical parents. She is the character that can hold her own next to the interesting, magical Samuel.
It’s clear that throughout the novel, the separation between generations and wars is not so wide. As Ginger Martin changes to see her life as a gift rather than a burden, the novel evolves into a commentary on overcoming grief. But as each element of Samuel’s story comes to light, and as each of Ginger’s children begins to mature, the novel always reflects back on the land that gives them such possibility. One gets the feeling that Here and Again is a love letter to old Virginia—the culture and the beauty.
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