A haunting and beautifully written novel about a Confederate soldier whose own personal war follows him into the afterlife—until one fateful day when his encounters with a modern-day couple change everything.
Tom Smiley signed up as a private in the Confederate army when he was eighteen and quickly came to regret it. Spending the last year of the war in a Union prison scarred him so deeply that even death hasn’t brought freedom from its memory. A ghost in his deserted childhood home, he can’t forget the bloody war and its meaningless losses, or shed his revulsion for his role in the Confederate defense of slavery. But when a young couple moves in and makes his home their own in the early 21st century, trouble erupts—and Tom is forced to not only face his own terrible secret but also come to grips with his family’s hidden wartime history. He finds an unexpected ally in his house’s new owner, Phoebe Hunter, who is both fascinated and frightened by his ghostly presence—and whose discoveries will have momentous consequences for them both.
“Cutter paints a vivid portrait of the 19th century – a time of slavery and civil unrest....striking prose....A somber but absorbing Civil War tale about overcoming guilt.”
“A searing, brilliant, moving, and utterly original Civil War novel, told by the guilt-ravaged Virginia infantryman Tom Smiley whose own war never ended―at least not until a young couple move into his now-historic childhood home and start renovating, literally taking the past apart brick by brick, pots and pans, faded velvet curtains, cedar chests and china dishes and rusted hairpins, and even the tattered blue handkerchief box that contains his medals from the Battle of Gettysburg 25th and 50th reunions… bringing it all back. A stirring meditation on guilt and redemption.”
"Tom’s experiences, so vividly described, highlight the futility, chaos and hopelessness of war. The Last of What I Am is a deep and thought-provoking novel."
“What really haunts us–our own mistakes, or the weight of history? Based closely on the true story of her own uncanny encounters in an inherited antebellum Virginia farmhouse and old letters she found there, Abigail Cutter has crafted a novel that plumbs the painful history of a common soldier in the Civil War, and the burdens he cannot set down. A riveting read, rich in historic detail and moral complexity.”
“The Last of What I Am is a richly imagined tragedy of a Rebel soldier whose regret for ill-chosen allegiance haunts him from the moment of enlistment through the horrors of a Union prison. It follows him into the afterlife, where he lingers in his ancestral home, unable to shed his shame for fighting for the cause of slavery. Masterful historical research and detail of the 19th century invest this story with a reader’s pleasure in a felt life. All of this with an ear for the poetry that lives in disaster.”
“Abigail Cutter has rendered the Civil War and its consequences with a rare power and eloquence, combining literary imagination with fidelity to history. She has allowed people who lived and breathed in the past to live and breathe again, telling us of loss and suffering we need to remember.”
Abigail Cutter’s The Last of What I Am digs down to the dark and bloody roots of the Civil War that cling to us today. Graceful, unflinching, and wise, the book unearths one family’s tragedy and the ghosts that haunt it through four generations. This is a very well-told tale, set in the Shenandoah Valley, which Cutter knows in her bones.”
Novels that straddle both the historical and contemporary genres often have to sacrifice one of the two in order to be fully realized, but the case is not so with the excellent balance that Abigail Cutter strikes… The plot is laid out and cleverly paced… a richly atmospheric and deeply engrossing novel.
One of the best-written novels about the Civil War time period available. An incredible concept of a paranormal haunting influenced by the people moving into a house is expertly intertwined with historical elements and reflections that will pull the reader in right from the first page.
Abigail Cutter started out as an artist/printmaker with a MFA from George Washington University, but during a long stint at the National Endowment for the Humanities, she developed a deep love of American history. She married a man who came with 200 acres and an 18th century farmhouse in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The farmhouse came with a very active ghost that inspired this book. She currently lives at both the farm and in the small town of Waterford, VA with her husband, a black labrador named Emma, and a cat that bites named Barnibi.