Publisher: Intaglio Publications
The Clash Between the Minds is the sequel to Nann Dunne's earlier book The War Between the Hearts. It picks up the story of former Union spy Sarah-Bren Coulter, her partner Southerner Faith Pruitt and Faith's son Benjamin. The book is set in the period after the Civil War when the United States was trying to put itself back together, but the process didn't occur easily. Many people still clung to bitter feelings from the war and did not want to accept the new reality of freed slaves living among them. In this version life in a Missouri town is difficult for both women. Faith is serving as the town's teacher while Sarah is trying to keep their farm going. Their relationship is viewed by the local people as odd, at best, and definitely undesirable. They find their family caught up in the growing violence brought on by the appearance of the Ku Klux Klan and a rising tide of hatred caused by people who will not accept anyone who is different from their definitions of "normal" and "desirable." Forces conspire to tear them apart and, in an effort to save the woman and son she loves, Faith may have to agree to their demands. Faith is confused; Sarah goes on a quest to find somewhere that they can be safe; and whether or not they will be able to save their relationship hangs very much in doubt.
The Reconstruction period following the US Civil War was one of the most difficult in the country's history. People were forced to deal with physical and emotional devastation, a new social order and old and new prejudices. It would seem an odd period in which to set a romance, but it provides a perfect environment to show how a relationship can be tested. It also gives Nann Dunne a setting to explore important questions like racism, bigotry and terrorism. This is a story about two women who face challenges to their love, but it's also a bigger story as a country struggles to overcome hatred that is openly and vigorously expressed. As the tale of Sarah and Faith is interwoven with the realistic recreation of events that occurred then, it becomes clear that there is more at risk than them. The soul of a nation is also being tested.
Dunne has created strong, but flawed main characters; flawed in a way that makes them susceptible to doubt. She surrounds them with noble and brutal secondary characters that bring out the best and the worst in both women. This is an interesting and enjoyable book, but it goes beyond that because it's also educational and thought provoking. This is a story that can be enjoyed on two levels, first as a powerful romance and then as a commentary on a difficult era. This is definitely a book worth reading.