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Nightwoods: A Novel Paperback – June 12, 2012

4 out of 5 stars 323 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2011: A woman living in an abandoned rural lodge is suddenly forced to raise her dead sister's two wild young children. Neither of them has spoken a word since witnessing their mother's brutal murder, and they’ve developed a fondness for breaking things and starting fires. These mute, trouble-making kids are among Charles Frazier’s finest characters. And when their ne'er-do-well father is acquitted and released from jail, the action in this lush and lively novel flares. With sharp dialogue, unexpected humor, and a powerful ability to depict the scents and sounds of loamy Carolina backwoods, while toying with fire and water as his themes, Frazier has crafted an impressive story, proving that Cold Mountain was no fluke. --Neal Thompson

A Letter from Author Charles Frazier

Lost in the woods. A dangerous phrase, but also with a resonance of folktale. Hansel and Gretel with their bread crumbs. Jack alone, roaming the lovely, dark, and deep southern mountains. So, young people and old people being lost in the woods has always been interesting to me for those reasons. And also because it happens all the time still.

Back when I was a kid, eight or ten, my friends and I lived with a mountain in our backyards. We stayed off it in summer. Too hot and snaky. But in the cool seasons, we roamed freely. We carried bb guns in the fall and rode our sleds down old logging roads in winter. We often got lost. But we knew that downhill was the way out, the way home. When I grew up and went into bigger mountains, you couldn’t always be so sure. I remember being lost in Bolivia. Or let’s say that I grew increasingly uncertain whether I was still on the trail or not. That’s the point where you ought to sit down and drink some water and consult your maps and compass very carefully and calmly. I kept walking. At some point, it became a matter of rigging ropes to swing a heavy pack over a scary white watercourse. I ended up at a dropoff. Down far below, upper reaches of the Amazon basin stretched hazy green into the distance. Downhill did not at all seem like the way home.

You’ll just have to trust me that this has something to do with my new novel, but to go into it much would risk spoilers. I’ll just say that early on in the writing of Nightwoods, Luce and the children were meant to be fairly minor characters, but I kept finding myself coming back to them, wanting to know more about them until they became the heart of the story. Some of my wanting to focus on them was surely influenced by several cases of kids lost in the woods in areas where I’m typically jogging and mountain biking alone at least a hundred days a year. It’s part of my writing process, though I hardly ever think about work while I’m in the woods. But I do keep obsessive count of how many miles a day I go and how many words I write, lots of numbers on 3x5 notecards. All those days watching the micro changes of seasons can’t help but become part of the texture of what I write, and those lost kids, too.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Incantatory prose . . . unexpected twists of plot . . . a look at the nature of good and evil and how those forces ebb and flow over time.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Nightwoods propels forward at a suspenseful clip. . . . It is Frazier’s verisimilitude of North Carolina backwoods and how this particular place shapes his characters and their footing in his imagined world that bring this story alive.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Wonderful . . . There’s a dreamy spell set in motion by Frazier’s devotion to his native Appalachians. To read this book is to disappear deep into a meticulously created landscape.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“A gorgeously written thriller, as brutal and unflinching yet tender and merciful as nature itself.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A gritty new beauty of a novel . . . Its hero is a woman named Luce, and no woman could write a female character who rings any truer.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer


Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812978803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812978803
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (323 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In his latest novel "Nightwoods", Charles Frazier returns to the same bleak, quiet Appalachian landscape that he introduced readers to in "Cold Mountain". However, unlike his celebrated earlier work of fiction, there is an almost timeless quality in "Nightwoods", a story that could have taken place as easily during the midst of the Civil War or sometime late in the Twentieth Century. Instead Frazier drops subtle hints (e. g. a reference to the film "The Defiant Ones") that it is set in the late 1950s, in a rural Appalachia that is virtually indistinguishable from the one described in "Cold Mountain", rendered vividly in a sparse, often lyrical, prose that will remind readers of Cormac McCarthy's recent work, especially "The Road"; a comparison that is most apt since "Nightwoods" is almost as bleak as McCarthy's rural near future dystopian novel. Frazier offers his readers a most captivating, often poignant, and quite brilliant, portrayal of Luce, the young woman who unexpectedly inherits her sister's troublesome, emotionally scarred, son and daughter. Hers is an epic battle of wits with her sister's husband, Bud - whom she suspects is her sister Lily's killer - as she seeks to protect Lily's young children from their alcoholic, violence-prone father. Her only ally in this quest is the unassuming Stubblefield, who becomes both friend and guardian angel to Luce, her niece and her nephew. Frazier has once again combined his excellent storytelling talent with his superb prose into a winning combination destined to be celebrated by critics and fans alike; without question, one of the finest, and most compelling, works of fiction published this year.
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Format: Hardcover
Luce is living as a caretaker of a remote lodge in North Carolina. Mr. Stubblefield, the owner of the lodge has recently died, but Luce continues to live there because "... nobody else seemed interested in keeping it from growing over with kudzu until it became nothing but a green mound." Luce has also become the caretaker of Frank and Delores, her twin nephew and niece, after their mother was murdered by her husband, Bud. The children will not talk and are difficult to control, setting things on fire, killing chickens and constantly fighting with each other. Some people say that they are retarded, but Luce believes that they have been badly abused and traumatized. Meanwhile, Bud, a cold-blooded killer who carefully plots his evil moves, has been found not guilty of murder and returns to find out if Luce has the ten thousand dollars, the proceeds from one of his robberies, that his wife had hid from him.

Frazier weaves together an atmospheric story using believable dialogue and vivid descriptions of rural Appalachia. It sometimes feels like every word of every sentence has been carefully constructed to pull the reader in. The characters are realistic and fascinating, the plot is intense and it's a real page turner. A beautifully written book, highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Charles Frazier is a great wordsmith. Since COLD MOUNTAIN he has not been such a great story teller.

This is the story of a reclusive woman in the hills of North Carolina who suddenly has her twin niece and nephew thrust upon her. We know immediately that Luce's sister's children are not normal - they do not speak. Luce is undaunted, if not enthusiastic about losing her reclusive and independent life. We then learn something about her sister, her brother-in-law and the son of the man who owned where she lived. Believe it or not, that is the first 200 pages of this 260 page novel.

The writing is wonderful and the descriptive passages are stuff of creative writing classes. The plot - such as it is - plods and plods. Suddenly in the last 60 pages or so the story picks up and (with a few dull overly descriptive interludes) becomes a page-turner. If only the entire book was like this it would be a classic on the order of say, COLD MOUNTAIN.

Luce is a terrifically interesting character. She is a character with depth and uniqueness. As the book slowly peels the onion skin away from her past she becomes the even more intriguing.

The rest of the characters are pretty cardboard cut-out: the psychotic brother-in-law, the son of the landowner and the truly stereotypical independent elderly neighbor with the potions and the wisdom of the ages.

The book is saved by the incredibly interesting writing. Just as the reader is ready to throw the book out of the window, a plot suddenly appears.

One quirky point. Where did all the quotation marks go? Spoken lines are indicated by a dash starting the paragraph, unless they are not. Most spoke lines start with a dash, but others are buried in the paragraph.
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Format: Hardcover
Nightwoods is a story that evokes emotion from the reader, both through the story itself and the authentic voice of the narrator. Luce is a woman who has been cast aside by society and by herself, left on the fringe. She comes to be the caretaker of her murdered sister's twins and from here, the story evolves into an engrossing tale that hooks the reader and refuses to let them go until the very last page.

I would describe Luce as the type of person I would personally want to hang out with, if she were real, that is. As uncomfortable as she is in her own skin, she never once compromises herself and her values for those around her. Her voice is authentic and rings from page one. I felt myself identifying with her and her plight, keeping me entranced by the story as I desperately turned the pages to find out what happened next in her life.

Charles Frazier is a favorite author of mine, and this book does not disappoint. With a rich story and Frazier's remarkable talents as a storyteller, the story is a can't miss tale that takes you to Appalachia and surrounds you immediately with rich prose and an amazing story. And I loved trying the bacon with popcorn mentioned in the book. That alone is worth some praise.
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