The Last of What I Am by Abigail Cutter depicts the reality of the American Civil War and the harsh conditions faced by common soldiers, who are much removed from the strategic decisions of officers and more involved in the gory action. It offers a poignant and raw portrayal of a war that left the people involved in it forever transformed in one way or another.
Tom Smiley, a Civil War veteran, is seen as the protagonist whose ghostly presence lingers on, forever haunted by the brutality he experienced in war. The young and inexperienced Confederate soldier finds himself staring death in the face as he fights for his and his friends’ lives on the battlefield. From slavery to being captured and losing friends, Tom experiences enough troubles to create another war within. Will Tom survive all his battles and find peace?
The book provides a vivid portrayal of history and includes a lifelike representation of different historical themes, including slavery, letter writing, and the American Civil War. Seeing humans get traded like goods gave me a cause to think deeply about humanity’s history of accepting depraved practices as norms.
Tom is a thoughtful protagonist with complex emotional battles that compel readers to root for him and stick to the end. Since he’s haunted by his feelings of guilt and regret, as well as his rough experience in the war, Tom finds it hard to be present in his life and fulfill his role as a husband. I felt like a part of his story.
Abigail’s first-person narrative allows readers to easily connect with the protagonist, whether he’s in the midst of battle or lamenting as a ghost over his invaded home. Additionally, the non-linear storytelling adds an element of unpredictability as it shifts between different phases of the protagonist’s life. I had no clue about the phase of the protagonist’s story that would be depicted next.
While the war scenes are vividly displayed, they may become monotonous and draining after a while since they don’t have many exciting events and characters. Also, some themes are not maintained well, creating a fragmented experience. For example, Tom’s relationship with his wife, introduced at the beginning, is somewhat neglected as the story progresses.
The Last of What I Am is suitable for mature fans of historical and war stories, especially ones with deep messages and questions about moral issues. The book’s captivating portrayal of conflicting moments and physically demanding challenges elicits strong emotions and fosters a genuine connection with the characters. It delivers an important message that warns against the perils of war and immoral acts, making it highly relevant to today’s most concerning issues.