The Last Sister: A Novel (2014)
“Patient and sophisticated readers will find the story compelling and deeply moving and its heroine unforgettable.”–Kirkus Reviews, (starred)
“A unique historical fiction title with a compelling plot and unique backdrop, taking place during a little-known skirmish in a pivotal time of American history.”–School Library Journal
“McKinney-Whitaker’s gripping tale may startle readers with its brutal events, but it offers well-rendered characters, nuanced treatment of Native and colonial viewpoints, and an especially affecting look at a young woman’s power in the face of catastrophe.” –Booklist Online
The Last Sister won a 2015 IPPY Silver Medal for Historical Fiction!
This project started out as my senior thesis in history at the Honors College at the University of South Carolina. I edited the handwritten manuscript of a novel written by a Civil War-era USC professor, making it available to readers for the first time. It was a really cool project. People often ask if that’s me on the cover. No–but wouldn’t it be cool if it were!
“Labeling Eunice by William James Rivers (1822–1908) a historical romance is like calling a hurricane a storm of inconvenient proportions—an accurate description too tame to do it justice, thus woefully misleading. Close calls, narrow escapes, fascinating characters, thought-provoking dialogue, evocative details, and a plot with enough unexpected twists to tilt the brain make this tale of Radical Reconstruction a true page turner. This first publication of Eunice proves that acquiring a hearty dose of southern history can be a vastly entertaining experience. Hurrah for Rivers! His good victory brings to mind a portion of the William Gilmore Simms quote Rivers begins his story with: ‘And this is still to conquer though we perish.'”—David Aiken, author of Fire in the Cradle: Charleston’s Literary Heritage and editor of A City Laid Waste: The Capture, Sack, and Destruction of the City of Columbia
“This first publication of William James Rivers’ Eunice fills an important gap in our understanding of Reconstruction-era treatments of the Civil War in fiction and contrasts nicely with the widely read canonized accounts written later. The introduction by Tara Courtney McKinney provides a useful overview of Rivers’ place in southern life and admirably links his biography with the major political and cultural events that inform the novel. This edition of Eunice makes for a welcome addition to reading lists for scholars and students of English, southern studies, and American studies.”—Sarah Gardner, author of Blood and Irony: Southern White Women’s Narratives of the Civil War, 1861–1937