In 1861, a 12-year-old boy and his 80-year-old grandmother flee their elegant home along the Beaufort River to shelter in the wilderness of Cane Island, South Carolina. They struggle to survive as the Civil War lays waste to the existence they’ve known and loved—a way of life doomed from its unholy inception. Carter’s mother Anna has fled to Charleston, along with most of his neighbors. His brother Preston is off fighting for the Confederacy. The family’s former slaves have looted his childhood home, and Union troops have commandeered his hometown. Meanwhile, Carter’s charming, cocksure cousin Gabe has asked him to spy for the Confederacy. In this classic coming-of-age story, Carter Barnwell is thrust into an early manhood as he faces the challenges of living off the land, caring for his ailing grandmother, wrestling with his budding sexuality, and wrangling with his awakening conscience. When he meets an abolitionist missionary from the north—who happens to be a beautiful young girl—Carter begins to see his world through new and critical eyes, even as he maintains fierce loyalty to the people and homeland he loves.
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“Warley is a knowledgeable writer, weaving in period detail and historical fact to develop a rich, engaging narrative . . .”
“With a large cast of unforgettable characters—both historical and fictional—and a backdrop of indelible splendor, John Warley has spun a tale of adventure, romance, and reckoning set during a pivotal moment in our nation’s fraught history that reverberates profoundly, even today.”
—Margaret Evans, Editor, Lowcountry Weekly
“Part coming-of-age adventure, part love story, part multi-generational epic, The Home Guard further secures novelist John Warley’s place as a southern writer of high merit. Against the backdrop of the Civil War and the Lowcountry on the precipice of monumental change, young Beaufortonian Carter Barnwell is torn between his Southern familial loyalties, the responsibilities of burgeoning adulthood, and a blossoming affection for the newly arrived Sonja Sunblad, a teenaged teacher in the Port Royal Experiment. Warley’s historical novel brings a diverse, conflicted cast of characters vibrantly to life and immerses us into a masterful tale of the strife of war pitted against a steadfast fidelity of the heart.”
—Jonathan Haupt, Executive Director, Pat Conroy Literary Center.