The Music Box is an unusual Civil War story set in Fredericksburg, Texas beginning in 1861.
Katarina and Gunter, hard-working German immigrants, welcome his much younger brother, Wilhelm, and Eliza, his southern belle bride, to their farm. The only child of successful high society southern gentry in Galveston, Eliza knows nothing about farm life, having grown up with a personal slave whom she adores. Eliza is madly in love with Wilhelm, and defies her parents to marry the dashing young German. Eliza cares nothing about politics, farm work, or the rumors of war, and knows in her heart that the southern way is the only way to live.
Katarina has calloused hands, works from dawn to dusk on the farm, speaks little English, and finds her much younger and ever so charming sister-in-law annoying at best. The plot thickens as the rumors of war become reality in their rural Texas community. Bands of recruiters roam as vigilantes threatening every man to do his part. Gunter joins with the North and Wilhelm appeases Eliza by joining with the South.
Katarina expects Eliza to travel back to her parent’s home, but Eliza insists on remaining and waiting for her husband to return from the war. The evolvement of the two women’s relationship is the heart of this beautiful story. Eliza reluctantly learns to work the farm and her hands toughen up; she shows a feisty fearlessness that saves them on several occasions.
Katarina slowly learns to respect and love the younger woman and English slowly becomes her language out of necessity. She is expecting a baby, thanks to her last night with Gunter before he left for the war. This is frightening and joyful for her. She’s miscarried several times and feels this is her last chance.
There are several strong secondary and tertiary characters in this well researched and well written novel. The reader cannot help but cheer these ‘sisters’ on as they struggle to keep their Texas farm going while their husbands fight in the Civil War. Neither woman has a real sister, and their obvious opposites in personality, disposition, and background provides much tension throughout the story—as do the Indian raids, the roaming vigilantes, and the longing for news of their men at war. The women’s relationship with each other evolves with each unexpected twist and turn of the plot. The Music Box is an unforgettable story.