Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt summary



Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt summary


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Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt summary


Author Information

Irene Hunt published her first book, Across Five Aprils at age 57 in 1964.  Her

Grandfather inspired the story.  Events are historically correct and supported by family letters. The main focus of Hunt’s writing is to integrate history and literature.


Key Facts –

Novel; young adult fiction, historic fiction

Setting:  A small family farm in Southern Illinois.  Story begins in Mid-April 1861, as the Civil War is about to begin.

Story is narrated anonymously, centering on Jethro Creighton.

Point of view: third person

Tone:  grave and melancholy; determined


General Themes –

The American Civil War and the way it affects the country and a specific family.  Whether people discuss who is winning the war or who supports whom in the war, there is an extreme and changeable nature in public opinion.

The power of the presidency:  Jethro and others have faith in their leaders.

The importance of redemption and forgiveness:  An accident that led to the death of Jethro's little sister at the hand of a neighbor becomes clearly understood and forgiven. Eb is encouraged to turn himself in and rejoin the war efforts after his desertion, and he does.


Character List –

Jethro Creighton:  protagonist comes of age during the Civil War.

Jenny Creighton:  sister to Jethro, they come to terms with national and family events together.

Shadrach Yale:  teacher and friend to Jethro. Severely wounded in the war.  Jenny nurses him to health and marries him.

Ross Milton: friend to Jethro and his family, editor of town paper.

Matt Creighton: father of Jethro

Eb Creighton: Metro’s cousin and a war deserter who eventually rejoins the effort.

Bill Creighton: Jethro's favorite brother decides to fight for the south.

Abraham Lincoln:  A letter is written to Jethro in response to a letter he sends, which has a profound effect on Jethro.




Summary of the plot

Jethro Creighton, the protagonist, is young and idealistic at the start of the novel.  He comes of age during the Civil War as he experiences hardship and loss. He watches as three of his brothers and a beloved teacher go off to war.  Jethro and his family carefully follow the progress of the war.  As responsibilities fall to Jethro he steps up to the plate and handles them.  After an unpleasant confrontation in town regarding his brother who joined the Southern forces, he becomes friends with the editor of the town paper, a friendship that lasts throughout the book.

Some local men find issue with the fact that one of the brothers has gone to fight with the southerners; they proceed to torment and threaten the Creighton family.  Jethro's sister Jenny and his teacher Shadrach are in love, and are reunited when Shadrach is seriously injured in the war.  Jenny travels east to be with him and nurse him back to health.  Their father, at first against his youngest daughter marring, gives his consent.  With time, the war ends and Lincoln is assassinated; this is a terrible blow to his biggest fan, Jethro.  Upon the return of Jenny and Shadrach it is decided that they will adopt Jethro and see that he gets an education.  


Important Quotes -

Ross Milton says peace will not be a “perfect pearl”.

In a response to Jethro’s letter to Lincoln, Lincoln commends Jethro for seeking out “what is right”.

When Jethro hears of the assassination of Lincoln he goes on with daily tasks but” there was no longer any beauty in the world about him or any serenity in his heart”.


Important Symbols -

Bible Ledger is used to record events of the family changes. It is a record of the family’s greatest joys and sorrows written inside the cover of the family Bible.

The Barn: a symbol of judgment when it is burned down by a mob of angry townsmen who hate the Creighton’s because of the brother who is fighting with the Southern forces.  It also symbolizes rebuilding when friends and neighbors come together to rebuild it.

Drinking Coffee:  a symbol of maturity and necessity of bittersweet experiences.


Resources –


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Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt summary