When Johnny Came Marching Home by William Heffernan

A raw and emotional story about the consequences of war . . .

When Johnny Came Marching Home follows the story of Jubal Foster and his two best friends, Johnny and Abel- country boys raised in the woods of Vermont. Inseparable, they do everything together, from hunting deer to pulling pranks and practical jokes; and when the call comes for them to serve their country, the three friends eagerly decide to enlist together to fight in the Civil War. But they soon discover that war is not as glorious and noble as they once thought, experiencing first-hand it’s consequences in the tolls it takes, and the effects it has on those who survive.

After the war, Jubal returns home with an amputated arm and a heavy heart, weighed down with secrets he must take with him to the grave. Abel has been killed, and only he and Johnny remain- but Johnny has changed, and is no longer the kind innocent boy he used to be. 

Jubal takes a job as a deputy constable under his father, wanting nothing more than to find a way to carry on with his life, and to continue his courtship of Abel’s sister Rebecca. But when Johnny’s body is found murdered, Jubal must find the killer without revealing the secrets that would cause so much pain to his family and the tight-knit community to which they belong.

Switching seamlessly between past and present, Heffernan draws the reader in completely, revealing pieces to the story one layer at a time. Though I wouldn’t say this has the “twistiest” plot, or the most challenging mystery, I did think it was extremely well written and paced. I also enjoyed the author’s style, which is very smooth and believable. Heffernan’s ability to connect modern readers with the past is a rare talent. Though the story took place during the Civil War, he doesn’t attempt to put a filter on the events and people of the period- and in reading this book the reader gains the understanding that perhaps people weren’t so different back then as they are today. Beautifully written, this book is highly addicting- once you begin reading you won’t be able to put it back down. Highly recommended!

Rating: 5 stars


I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review.

About the author:

William Heffernan, a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, is the author of eighteen novels, including such best sellers as The Corsican, The Dinosaur Club (a New York Times best seller), The Dead Detective,and Tarnished Blue (winner of an Edgar Award). Heffernan lives outside of St. Petersburg, Florida.

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