Brave Enemies

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A superb crafter of place and historical context, Robert Morgan’s Brave Enemies brings alive the rural southern Blue Ridge mountains and their people. At age sixteen, after being raped by her stepfather and discovering that her mother blames her and not her husband, Josie Summers leaves home disguised as a boy in her rapist’s clothes and with her mother’s small stash of money in her pants pocket.

“Joseph” wanders the hills until her journey brings her to a revival camp of circuit-riding preacher John Trethman. After working as his assistant for a time, Trethman discovers “Joseph’s” true identity and that he loves her. Fearing the anger of his parishioners if they should discover that Joseph is a woman, they decide to marry secretly, “in the eyes only of God,” yet Trethman is racked with angry guilt at having to continue the deception.

Because the Colonist revolutionaries are so active in Trethman’s area, the King’s Army believes that he, too, is a revolutionary sympathizer. To save his life, Trethman allows himself to be impressed into their service as a preacher and medical aid. Watching from the woods, Josie sees the British burn their home: her only alternative is to run, again disguised as “Joseph.” Unfortunately, the hills she wanders are full of Revolutionary soldiers and their sympathizers, and, when they capture her, she must enlist in the North Carolina militia to avoid being shot as a British...

(The entire section is 463 words.)