Voices in the Dead House
Novel by Norman Lock
Bellevue Literary Press, July 2022
Inspired by Whitman’s poem “The Wound-Dresser” and Alcott’s Hospital Sketches, the ninth stand-alone book in The American Novels series centers on the aftermath of the Union Army’s defeat at Fredericksburg in 1862 where Walt Whitman and Louisa May Alcott converge on Washington to nurse the sick, wounded, and dying. Whitman was a man of many contradictions: egocentric yet compassionate, impatient with religiosity yet moved by the spiritual in all humankind, bigoted yet soon to become known as the great poet of democracy. Alcott was an intense, intellectual, independent woman, an abolitionist and suffragist, who was compelled by financial circumstance to publish saccharine magazine stories yet would go on to write the enduring and beloved Little Women. As Lock captures the musicality of their unique voices and their encounters with luminaries ranging from Lincoln to battlefield photographer Mathew Brady to reformer Dorothea Dix, he deftly renders the war’s impact on their personal and artistic development.