Historical Fiction -Book Annotation

3 May

Title: The Rebel Wife

Author: Taylor M. Polites

Publication Date: 2012 by Simon & Schuster

Genre: Historical Fiction

Number of Pages: 294

In her husband (Eli)’s death, Augusta “Gus” Branson unlocks a world of financial secrets, unexplained debt, and unfinished business. As she is left to face her newfound reality, she has to determine who to trust in order to preserve the life of her son, herself, and her husband’s indentured servants. True to the genre, this story unfolds at a leisurely pace peeking into the mind of Gus as she grapples with these changes, on a journey to find answers to the many questions Eli left unanswered.

Central Character:

  • Augusta “Gus” Branson

Other significant Characters (as they appear in the story):

  • Eli Branson (Augusta’s Husband)
  • Simon (servant of Eli)
  • John and Rachel (servants of Eli)
  • Judge Heppert (Augusta’s Cousin)

Geographical Setting: Alabama, United States

Time Period: The South in the late 1800s

Plot Summary:

This story follows the life of Augusta “Gus” Branson, as she tries to bury her husband by unearthing the many secrets he left behind. Her husband, Eli Branson, sought refuge for colored people during a time when the idea was unpopular. Gus faces challenges when her husband of 10 years falls sick and dies from a mysterious blood plague. This marks the beginning of a downpour of mysterious happenings, leaving Gus with more questions than answers. Each unanswered question begins to pull at the thread of her security in her finances and her future. Not knowing who to believe, she receives mixed messages about Eli’s business affairs from Judge Heppert, her white cousin, and Simon, her husbands’ colored servant. It quickly turns into a battle of wills. The people she least expects, become the key characters to help her uncover the ugly truth about a man she thought she knew.

Subject Headings:

  • Alabama Fiction
  • Social and Moral Issues


  • Historically Accurate Customs and Beliefs
  • Character Driven Plot (with a deeply reflective protagonist)
  • Leisurely Unfolding

Similar Authors and Works:

  • Jonathan Odell focuses on life in the pre-Civil War South, a domestic battle of wills, and the power of healing through storytelling, in the novel The Healing.
  • Barry Unsworth focuses on the story of a passionate advocate of the poor and powerless, in the novel The Quality of Mercy.
  • Kathy Hepinstall focuses on a spirited woman, impossible love, and an undeniable call to freedom during the Civil War, in the novel Blue Asylum.

-A Teaching Librarian


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