Voices in the Dead House

Bellevue Literary. (American Novels, Bk. 9). Jul. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9781954276017. pap. $16.99. F
The ninth stand-alone book in Lock’s “American Novels” series (following Tooth of the Covenant) details the lives of Walt Whitman and Louisa May Alcott during a brief time in 1863 when they were both volunteering at hospitals in Washington, DC, during the Civil War. Alcott and Whitman never met in real life, but the broad outline of the story is factual, and Lock convincingly writes in the voices of his subjects. Whitman works in the army paymaster’s office and tends to injured and dying soldiers at the Armory Square Hospital in his free time. Alcott is a nurse at the more dismal Union Hotel Hospital, where disease runs rampant and unhygienic amputations are carried out, until she contracts typhoid and has to return home to recover. Alcott’s abolitionist views starkly contrast with Whitman’s racism, and in the afterword, Lock addresses how disconcerting it was to discover Whitman’s personal views when his published work often challenged the prejudices of his time.
VERDICT Lock captures the strong personalities of Whitman and Alcott without glossing over their flaws in this fascinating snapshot of history.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing