A Review of Not One Among Them Whole by Edison McDaniels

Not One Among Them

Mr. Edison McDaniels himself brought this novel to my attention; he sent us two pieces of his work for free to be reviewed, something that I am very grateful for.  So thanks must again be expressed to Mr. McDaniels for this.

I was lucky enough to read both pieces of fiction, and I am incredibly impressed with McDaniels.  The first work I reviewed, the novella titled Blade Man, (the review of which can be found here) was truly enjoyable.  It wasn’t necessarily as polished as it could have been  (you can refer to my comment in the review) but the writing was still mostly solid and the suspense was expertly crafted.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, though. when I turned to begin Not One Among Them Whole. The reasoning for this was that the description of this novel made it sound as though it was nothing like the novella, and I was worried that the novel would simply pale in comparison to the novella. It is, after all, hard to excel in two different genres and styles.  I feel confident in saying that my worries were unfounded.  This novel, although very different from McDaniel’s novella, is still very well done.
The Good:
The tagline for this novel is as follows: A Novel of Gettysburg
Immediately, I imagined a rather painful historic account with bland characters drenched in stereotypes.  It really added to my hesitation to read the novel after I had already read the wonderful novella.  However, the impression that the tagline had instilled in me was entirely wrong.  The character are very well developed and although there may be a stereotype here or there (not many), the characters (nor the author) don’t seen to rely on them for identity. Most of these characters take you on an emotionally roller coaster given the heightened historical content that war immediately interjects into a story – especially a war like the civil war.  I also was not expecting such a variety of characters.  I really thought it was going to entirely focus on this Civil War surgeon.  While I do think the surgeons are the readers best window into the onslaught, there are others.  I loved the diversity of view points, as I felt it provided me with a fuller overall picture – a less biased picture.
It is also the first historical fiction novel on the Civil War that I have encountered (although I must admit that I don’t read very many novel that fall into that category) in which the view points of the surgeons were taken into account.  This alone makes it unique and worthy of looking in to as I feel I gained new perspective and that other readers will as well.
The writing, especially the descriptions of the surgeries and procedures, come off as incredibly realistic and authentic.  Of course, as Mr. McDaniels is also a neurosurgeon (yes, a writer AND a neurosurgeon, not sure if there is anything McDaniels can’t do) it is safe to assume that these descriptions are indeed incredibly accurate.  For me, sometimes these descriptions were a little too real, but more on that later.
The historical facts, so important to historical fiction, were there and helped to support the story as opposed them having to be manipulated in order to accommodate the story.   With the facts supporting the fictional narrative, the lines of fiction and history were blended in the way that only truly good historical fiction can accomplish.
The Bad:
As stated earlier, sometimes the descriptions of the medical procedures were a bit too vivid for my tastes, and I had to skim over them.  I am a bit of a wimp, but I think others may have this problem as well.  It can be gross and gory, for lack of better terminology, given the combination of a reader’s vivid imagination and McDaniels detailed and vivid imagery.
The Verdict:
Don’t read: If you aren’t a huge fan of accurate and gory accounts of war, this will not be the novel for you – although I must mention that skimming through these portions helped immensely and ensured that I didn’t miss out on a great piece of fiction.
Read: If you have been looking for an accurate yet artful piece of historical fiction, I cannot imagine anything more perfect to satisfy that need than Not One Among Them Whole.  The writing is well done, polished, and approachable while the characters and story are convincing, captivating, and deep.

Written by Rachel B.

Rachel is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She recently graduated with a degree in English. Presently, she writes, reads, and then reads and writes some more, with a giant and ever-present mug of green tea in her hand. Follow Rachel @rrbindl and DNFB @not4birds