The Confederate General Rides North
Eleven-year-old Katherine McConnell is so immersed in Civil War history that she often imagines herself a general, leading troops to battle. When Kat’s beautiful, impulsive mother wakes her early one morning in the summer of 1968 to tell her they will be taking a road trip from Georgia to Maine to find antiques for a shop she wants to open, Kat sees the opportunity for adventure and a respite from her parents’ troubled marriage. Armed with a road atlas and her most treasured history books, Kat cleverly charts a course that will take them to battlefields and historic sites and, for her mother’s sake she hopes, bring them home a success. But as the trip progresses, Kat’s experiences test her faith in her mother and her loyalty to the South, bringing her to a dif- ficult new awareness of her family and the history she reveres. And when their journey comes to an abrupt and devastating halt in Gettysburg, Kat must make an irrevocable choice about their ultimate destination.
Deftly narrated with the beguiling honesty of a child’s per- spective and set against the rich backdrop of the South during the 1960s, The Confederate General Rides North gracefully blends a complex mother-daughter relationship, the legacy of the Civil War, and the ache of growing up too soon.
Reading Group Guide
1. The Confederate General Rides North is a coming-of-age novel, about Katherine coping with difficult events and being forced to grow up quickly. Though the trip she and her mother take lasts just under a week, Kat changes her attitudes about a number of things; what are they?
2. The story of Katherine and her mother’s journey is told exclusively from Kat’s point of view. In what ways would the novel be different if the story had been told by Kat’s mother in first person narration? How would the novel be different if third person narration had been used and the thoughts of both Kat and her mother were revealed? What might have been lost in a different sort of narration?
3. Discuss how Katherine uses her love of Civil War history to cope with her personal difficulties. How does the author convey this in the italicized sections? How does the “voice” of the italicized (3rd person) sections differ from that of the primary 1st person narrative of the book? Does the voice of the “italicized” sections change over the course of the book?
4. The journey in the novel takes place early in the summer of 1968. In what ways and from whom does Kat learn about some of the important political events of 1968? How does she make sense of this information and what effect does it have on her as she travels with her mother? What memories or knowledge do you have about the political and cultural events see more