I wasn't really prepared for this to be a good book -- I was given an old copy by my Mom, who is from the South. 'Oh good, another war story' I thought. But once into the book, I was hooked. So many books lately seem shallow: they have one main theme and seem constructed mainly to make a good screenplay.
This book will never make a good screenplay, but it makes a rich, intriguing read. Although the story is complex, I had no trouble remembering what was going on or who the characters were: they were so detailed and memorable. It doesn't really matter what you think about the Civil War, either: the book is primarily about people, and about a certain time in history.
On a personal note, as a woman struggling with work and kids and house, Lucy's description of life at the turn of the century made me feel downright liberated, as well as proud of all the women throughout the centuries that have fed and clothed 'a mess of children' through good times and bad. Her description of getting up every morning to make a dozen sandwiches made me think of all the trivial little things Moms do to make life go on for a family, and how it all counts somehow in the end. It was amazing to me that Allan could describe the universe from a woman's point of view with such seeming accuracy and poignancy!