HIDING EZRA, by Rita Sims Quillen is a beautiful, at times heart-wrenching love story. Love story? How can I call the story of a WWI deserter, Ezra Teague a love story? Here’s how.
Ezra Teague is a man who must choose between taking care of his family and fighting a war on the other side of the world – a war that he doesn’t understand. Living in the mountains of southwestern Virginia, Ezra Teague knows what it means to fight. He, like countless other pioneers, have fought to carve out a life on this rugged landscape. Why? LOVE. Ezra loves the mountains of his Scott County home. But don’t misunderstand Ezra. He is ready to fight for his country and reports for service with countless others.
Ezra finds himself in a predicament. His invalid father is helpless and must be cared for like an infant. His mother is dying, and the responsibility of his parents and the farm have fallen on his sister, Eva’s shoulders. When Ezra’s leave from the Army is up, he makes the decision not to return to Camp Lee. Ezra would rather hide in the mountains and risk the Army’s wrath, so he can watch over his family. His LOVE for his family surpasses his sense of duty.
For two years, Eza struggles to survive in the mountains while periodically being chased by Lieutenant Andrew Nettles, a native of Big Stone Gap, VA. Nettles inability to catch Ezra becomes a personal failing to the lieutenant, and he must reconcile his own feelings about how a man could choose his family over duty to his country. Lieutenant Nettles does indeed learn a lesson about LOVE from Ezra and the people who stand by him.
In the midst of this conflict is romantic LOVE. Her name is Alma Newton and strangely, their love grows while Ezra is on the run. It’s Alma love that helps Ezra find the strength to turn himself in, and it is her love, his sister’s love, and the love of his people that help Ezra move forward, and regain his life.
Rita Quillen is a brilliant poet and masterful storyteller. Her poet’s voice rings true throughout this novel. Ezra Teague’s story will remain with me for a very long time as I ponder his life, sacrifices and yes, love.
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