Out of so many books that I have read, few have affected me in the particular way that Across Five Aprils has. Great writers have the ability to craft a story that not only excites the reader’s interest but reaches out with its words, and touches beyond the imagination, straight to the soul. Across Five Aprils, in my experience with it, accomplished this.
The story begins the day news comes to a farm in the still-frontier area of southern Illinois, that war has been declared between the states. Initially, nine-year-old Jethro Creighton is excited. War is glamor and glory, the heroes’ battlefield. But this excitement, this naïve thrill at the waking of war, is temporary.
Jethro’s favorite brother joins the Confederacy, following a heart that tells him no government ought to have the right to tell people how to live their lives. Jethro’s other brothers join the rest of Illinois in the fight to preserve the Union. Thus follows the four, long tragic years of the American Civil War. The tale takes the reader through each battle across the country, while yet staying on a farm in southern Illinois with young Creighton.
The reader lives with Jethro and his family while the war unfolds. It shows like few other tales, how war effects everyone, even those who live far away from the actual fighting. It comes as a cold reminder of what war is, and what it does, but moves beyond the fighting and death and struggle and comes through and triumphs in the end with the heart of Jethro Creighton. One of the ways I was most profoundly affected by this book was the way that Hunt took the characters through the turmoil and scourge of war with all its sufferings and darkness and survives, changed but not defeated. The strength and magnificent resilience and courage of the human heart are displayed in this truly unforgettable story.
The war ends during the story; the long siege finally finishes. Jethro Creighton has grown-up and taken on the responsibilities of an adult. Hunt shows the change that has occurred in him throughout the years, the change that takes people from where they are to a higher level of maturity and understanding.
Irene Hunt took many of the events from the life of her grandfather who lived during the Civil War. She wrote a novel that truly showed human struggle, human failure, and the courage that can flower in every human heart.
In Across Five Aprils, faith and endurance are challenged severely; virtues are gained by Jethro Creighton that in other parts of the country are being forgotten and deserted. I recommend this book not only as a well-written novel and a good read, but also as a book that makes its readers think and encourages them to persevere. Although not explicitly Christian, it takes the reader to a place beyond hopeless darkness in a world of hate to a morning that dawns, steadfast and true.