A Spy's Eyes

Rachael's Story

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
86 Pages
Reviewed on 08/27/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

Rachael, the narrator of A Spy’s Eyes: Rachael's Story by Dickie Erman, was born to a black mother impregnated by a landowner. Thanks to her light coloring, she has the good fortune to be raised by the landowner and his wife as their own child. Rachael grows up eschewing her white family’s disdain for the black slaves, and when it looks like the south might lose the war, Rachael decides she could put her good looks to use as a spy, charming secret information out of hopeful Northern soldiers/suitors. It’s a risky business but she becomes so good at it that she passes on vital information about an upcoming battle that takes the lives of thousands. But this well-meaning Southern girl begins to find herself increasingly conflicted by her role in this massacre when she learns first hand from a wounded Northern soldier what the North sees as so wrong about slavery. As so many young adults do once they’re away from home and see life from others’ perspectives, Rachael questions what her parents have always held as truths.

Over the past 6 months, I’ve read several novels based on life in the Southern US before the Civil War brought an end to slavery. Even though American history is far removed from my own heritage, I have found these books fascinating, and have been particularly sensitive to the fact that some wealthy white American landowners used black women for more than working in the cotton fields. A Spy’s Eyes is a tightly written, uncluttered novel that gets right to the important points in a minimum number of pages. Despite the brevity, the author still manages to create realistic characters who come alive through smooth dialogue and the narrator’s brief asides. This is an enjoyable short read about an important time in American history. Pack it into your onboard bag for your next trip.

Rabia Tanveer

A Spy's Eyes: Rachael's Story by Dickie Erman is the story of a woman named Rachael who sees and understands a side of slavery that she never could decipher before. As the daughter of a plantation owner, she never knew the realities of life. She only knew and believed what her parents told her and, as the only child, she was coddled enough not to care. However, when the Civil War escalated and hit the cotton industry the most, she told her father that she would do anything to help him. Rachael moves to Washington D.C. to act as a spy for the Confederacy and bring as much information to the military as she can. However, a certain Union Officer came into her life and changed her perspective on slavery and what is right. She just wanted to protect the plantation that her father had worked so hard to build, but now knowing what slavery did to people of color, she realized that she was fighting for a cause that might not be what her parents told her. What is Rachel going to do? Will she do her duty to the cause or will she change her mind?

This was a quick novella to read but the author added in a lot of information, gave it a pace that was perfect for it and allowed Rachael plenty of time to make up her own mind away from her father. Rachael’s growth was tremendous; she tried her best to serve a purpose she didn’t really understand but wanted to. From impulsively serving the cause to having a change of heart, she handled everything with a maturity that surprised me. She had an internal conflict and then she had to come to terms with her own faults. She grew up, accepted her mistakes and then tried to make it right however it was possible. I enjoyed her reactions, her emotions and how she changed into an independent young woman rather than daddy’s girl. This story has a very well-constructed storyline. I loved it!

Gail Kamer

A Spy’s Eyes: Rachael’s Story by Dickie Erman is a tale like no other I’ve read about the Civil War. It’s told from the point of view of a young Southern girl who travels to Washington, D. C. to become a spy. However, the first thing she must do is to convince her father to let her go so she can help the South. The fact that she’s a biracial child is an interesting side point to the story. The main character receives training in the proper way to gather information without giving herself away. One warning is not to fall for any of the men who accidentally provide information. What does she do? She falls in love. But the big surprise is how her political views change so drastically from beginning to end.

Dickie Erman has taken a completely different viewpoint of the Civil War and developed it into an amazing story in A Spy’s Eyes: Rachael’s Story. Many books have been written on the Civil War and spying by both sides; however, I’ve never read a story that gives the main character such a change in ideology on this subject matter. It makes the reader wonder if there were real people whose beliefs actually followed this route. Some actual facts about the Civil War are intertwined within the fictional tale, creating realistic scenes. I can see A Spy’s Eyes: Rachael’s Story as a useful resource in high school classrooms. I can see it as just a fun fictional read as well. Be prepared to be surprised by the ending.