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Cataloochee: A Novel Hardcover – May 15, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (May 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400063434
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400063437
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #979,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The first time Ezra Banks sees the promised land called Cataloochee is when he runs away at age 14 and joins the Confederate army. So begins first-time novelist Caldwell's rambling account of life in the western mountains of North Carolina from 1864 to 1928. Land-poor Ezra returns to Cataloochee in 1880, marries Hannah Carter of the land-rich Carter family, takes over some of her father's property and goes on to raise a family and acquire more land, making him one of the wealthiest men in Cataloochee. But cantankerous Ezra is mean as a snake when he's drunk (and only slightly less when sober), earning him the community's enmity. The diffuse narrative moseys from one folksy yarn to the next about the fates of various members of the Carter/Banks clan. Late in the novel, conflict arrives in the form of the government's appropriation of Cataloochee to make way for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Then, Ezra, 78 and as irascible as ever, is shot to death, and his eldest son, Zeb, is charged with his murder. The ensuing trial is as singular as Cataloochee itself. A meandering and diverting collection of tangential yarns, Caldwell's debut will find a spot on many readers' shelves near Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Set in the reclusive mountains of North Carolina, Caldwell's rootsy first novel follows the small triumphs and tragedies of three families from the Civil War to 1928, when the area was absorbed into the new Smoky Mountains National Park. Keeping track of four generations of Carters, Banks, and Wrights, with their bountiful legions of offspring, would be a chore if not for Caldwell's deft touch, indelibly detailing characters even if their particular branch of the family tree only rustles free to offer a momentary glimpse into the loves, lives, and deaths of these hardscrabble folk. That the central conflict of the novel--a patricide--does not arise until well near the end speaks to the strength of the rest of this sprawling saga, wherein moments of inspired tenderness abut moments of unspeakable vileness, where friend and foe alike are worked deep into the folds of kith and kin. Throughout, Caldwell's prose weathers the bountiful yet perilous land with the measured resolve of an old folk balladeer, without resorting to sentiment or stereotype. Greil Marcus coined the term "old, weird America" in reference to the sometimes eerie, always peculiar Appalachian songs recorded by Harry Smith; this, then, is a novel about the folk who lived out their songs in that older, weirder America. Ian Chipman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Wayne Caldwell is a native of Asheville, North Carolina. He began writing fiction when he turned fifty. Winner of two short story prizes, the 2010 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award from the Western North Carolina Historical Association, and the 2013 James Still Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, he is the author of two novels---Cataloochee (2007) and Requiem by Fire (2010), both published by Random House. He also contributed to Naked Came the Leaf Peeper (Burning Bush Press, 2011), a collaborative novel by a dozen North Carolina writers. A short story, "Rattlesnakes," was published in 27 Views of Asheville (Eno Publishers, 2012). Finishing work on a third novel, he lives in Candler, North Carolina. Visit his website at www.waynecaldwell.com.

Customer Reviews

I'm trying to read it really slowly so it will last longer.
D. Davis
If you enjoy history, you'll understand the history of this island community.
Danielle Bernstein
The author created believable characters in this engaging novel.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Texas Librarian on June 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Cataloochee is one of those great surprises that I just happened to stumble across while browsing in a book store. I have been disappointed at times with books in settings such as the Appalachians or deep South because they bog down with unrealistic characters, dialogue, and events. This is not the case with this book. I look forward to picking it up after work and find myself recommending the book to others. Excellent read all the way around!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Griz on June 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Most of the books I read are mysteries with a fast paced, linear style. "Cataloochee" is not that type of book. Set in the mountains of North Carolina following the Civil War, it follows the style of an Appalachian tale - slow paced and not in the least linear. As one of the characters would say, "pull up a chair and set awhile." In accepting that invitation you enter a world of complex characters and interwoven lives. You are rewarded with characters who you feel like you really know and care about. By the end of the book you don't want it to end - you want to continue knowing how your new friends' lives continue to unfold. You gain a real feel for time and place. My next vacation will be to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to explore Cataloochee Valley, now part of that park.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Yalensian VINE VOICE on June 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Compared to many other modern novels, Wayne Caldwell's CATALOOCHEE seems old-fashioned in its reliance on storytelling to drive the narrative forward -- old-fashioned, yes, but also refreshing, like a cool gourd of water after a hard day in the apple orchard. Even characters, though they're interestingly, if not fully, developed, take a back seat to the story in this novel, which follows a small community in Appalachian North Carolina over the course of sixty years as they contend with each other and a rapidly changing outside world that is encroaching on their land and way of life.

Caldwell focuses primarily on Ezra Banks, his immediate family, and in-laws, but giving the book a panoramic, intergenerational, almost epic quality, he also intertwines the stories of other folks, most of whom are related in some way or another. The farther Caldwell gets from Banks, however, the more confusing the story becomes as one struggles to keep track of who everyone is and what is happening to them. This is off-putting until one realizes that we, as readers, are outsiders hearing this story, looking into these mountain valleys, attempting to understand the people who inhabit them. That Caldwell pulls this off -- making readers feel like outsiders even as he pulls them into this world -- is a stroke of genius. It's reminiscent, in a way, of the hospitality a stranger might experience on passing through Cataloochee and being invited to have supper, drink some home-brewed whiskey, and hear a few yarns with Will Carter.

Accenting the book's compelling narrative structure, Caldwell's prose captures the rhythms of life and death in Appalachia, evoking the sights, sounds, and smells of Cataloochee, the close-knit sense of community, the life-goes-on mentality.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Danielle Bernstein on May 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
When you write about a specific place, you need to get it just right. Only by being very local, can the book become universal. And Caldwell describes Cataloochee beautifully and correctly. Cataloochee is a real place, now in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can visit and walk among the buildings that are still remaining, including the two chapels mentioned in the novel and the Caldwell House.

You can hike it. See my hiking guide, "Hiking the Carolina Mountains", for specific hikes in Cataloochee.

And when you do, imagine the characters as they came into the area and as their descendants left.

If you enjoy novels, you'll love the characters. If you enjoy history, you'll understand the history of this island community. And if you're a hiker, you need to know where you're hiking.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Greene on August 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm North Carolina born and bred so that may speak to why I loved Cataloochie so much. This writer has an interesting story to tell and keeps you reading until you are unable to cook, clean or put that book down. I loved it!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Schneider on September 26, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some nice insight into what life was like in an isolated Appalachian community in the late 19th/early 20th century.

This book seemed to be searching for some sort of focus--it covers a long time span, and there are many characters. The parts I enjoyed the most was when it slowed down, and dove into a story. Unfortunately there are some chapters where one paragraph would be about a character who jumped in age twenty years from we saw them last. It would say just a little more than "They got married". Then the next paragraph would be about another character dying that said little more "They died".

Still, it did slow down in a few places. There are some very enjoyable passages about the quirky characters and their daily life in the mountains. Unfortunately the author got a little carried away in ending these in weird deaths.

The characters are generally likable. Caldwell did seem to find focus in the end of the book, where it really zoomed in on a specific character and event. Plus it finally showed characters outside of Cataloochee, which helped establish context. It came together well.

For fans of Cold Mountain- besides the setting (Haywood County!), and a little bit of the history, there really isn't much in common. It's a completely different story, Caldwell's writing is much less descriptive, and the dialogue is flat in many places. However, there are very subtle references to characters/places in Cold Mtn. If anyone else noticed these, please comment!
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