Margaret Mitchell's story of Scarlett O'Hara's and Rhett Butler's beguiling, twisted love for each other, set against the gruesome background of a nation torn apart by war, is by all accounts epic--so much so that it feels untouchable. Yet McCaig's take on what many would consider a sacred cow of 20th-century American literature is a worthy suitor for Mitchell's many ardent fans, for reasons that may not be altogether obvious. It would be easy to look at Gone With the Wind and Rhett Butler's People side by side and catalog what is accurate and what isn't and tally up the score. In doing so, however, the fan is apt to miss out on the best part of this whole book: Rhett Butler himself. McCaig's Rhett is thoroughly modern, both a product of his Charleston plantation and an emphatic rejection of it. He is filled with romance and ingenuity, grit and wit, and a toughness matched only by a sense of humility that evokes so gracefully the hardship and heartbreak of a society falling apart. It's not hard to love Rhett in his weakness for Scarlett's love, but it is entirely amazing to love him as he rescues Belle Watling, mentors her bright young son Tazewell, adores his sister Rosemary, dotes on dear Bonnie Blue, and defends his best friend Tunis Bonneau to the very end.
To pluck a character from a beloved book and recalibrate the story's point-of-view isn't an easy thing to do. Ultimately, the new must ring true with the old, and this is where Rhett Butler's People succeeds beyond measure. In the spirit of Mitchell's masterpiece, McCaig never questions that love--of family, lover, land, or country--is the tie that binds these characters to life, for better or worse. --Anne Bartholomew