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The Rebel Wife

The Rebel Wife

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Brimming with atmosphere and edgy suspense, The Rebel Wife presents a young widow trying to survive in the violent world of Reconstruction Alabama, where the old gentility masks continuing violence fueled by hatred, treachery, and still powerful secrets.

Augusta Branson was born into antebellum Southern nobility during a time of wealth and prosperity, but now she is left standing in the ashes of a broken civilization. When her scalawag husband dies suddenly of a mysterious illness, she must fend for herself and her young son. Slowly she begins to wake to the reality of her new life: her social standing is stained by her marriage; she is alone and unprotected in a community that is being destroyed by racial prejudice and violence; the fortune she thought she would inherit does not exist; and the deadly fever that killed her husband is spreading fast.

Augusta needs someone to trust if she and her son are to escape. As she summons the courage to cross the boundaries of hate, The Rebel Wife presents an unforgettable heroine for our time.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451629521 | 
  • September 2012
List Price $15.00
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Read an Excerpt

One

I KNOW THAT ELI is dying.

Rachel said the rattlesnakes were a bad sign, but that doesn’t signify. The Negroes give so much credence to conjuring and signs. But there is something about Eli. He looks so much like Pa before he died. Eli trembles in his bed like Pa did. He has the same fever in his eyes. Losing Pa was terrible, but I don’t feel that with Eli. He is not a bad husband, but it will not be like when Pa died.

When Eli came home on horseback, the heat had covered him in sweat. The humidity hung in the air like wet sheets shimmering in the sunlight. Simon had uncovered a nest of snakes... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Rebel Wife includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Taylor M. Polites. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction


Augusta “Gus” Branson, born of a prominent Southern family made destitute by the Civil War, is forced by her family into marriage with a wealthy upstart. Ten years after her marriage and the end of the war, she watches her husband Eli die from a horrifying blood fever. During the horror of Eli's swift demise, his most trusted servant, freed slave Simon, urgently questions Gus about a missing package that contains bribe money meant to sway politicians in an upcoming election. Gus plans to flee her Alabama town’s suffocating poverty and social constrictions, but once she realizes her husband’s fortune vanished in the Panic of 1873, she sets out to find the package.

Augusta begins to wake to the realities that surround her as a widowed woman in the antebellum South during Reconstruction: her social standing is stained by her marriage, she is alone and unprotected in a community that is being destroyed by racial prejudice and violence, and the deadly blood fever is ravaging her town. If Gus and Simon c see more

About the Author

Taylor M. Polites
Jamie Casertano

Taylor M. Polites

Taylor M. Polites received an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University, where he was awarded the 2009 Norris Church Mailer Fellowship. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

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