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Thirteen Moons: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 3, 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 352 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. When Frazier's debut Cold Mountain blossomed into a National Book Award–winning bestseller with four million copies in print, expectations for the follow-up rose almost immediately. A decade later, the good news is that Frazier's storytelling prowess doesn't falter in this sophomore effort, a bountiful literary panorama again set primarily in North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains. The story takes place mostly before the Civil War this time, and it is epic in scope. With pristine prose that's often wry, Frazier brings a rough-and-tumble pioneer past magnificently to life, indicts America with painful bluntness for the betrayal of its native people and recounts a romance rife with sadness. In a departure from Cold Mountain's Inman, Will Cooper narrates his own story in retrospect, beginning with his days as an orphaned, literate "bound boy" who is dispatched to run a musty trading post at the edge of the Cherokee Nation. Nearly nine mesmerizing decades later, Will is an eccentric elder of great accomplishments and gargantuan failures, perched cantankerously on his front porch taking potshots at passenger trains rumbling across his property (he owns "quite a few" shares of the railroad). Over the years, Will—modeled very loosely, Frazier acknowledges, on real-life frontiersman William Holland Thomas—becomes a prosperous merchant, a self-taught lawyer and a state senator; he's adopted by a Cherokee elder and later leads the clan as a white Indian chief; he bears terrible witness to the 1838–1839 Trail of Tears; a quarter-century later, he goes to battle for the Confederacy as a self-anointed colonel, leading a mostly Indian force with a "legion of lawyers and bookkeepers and shop clerks" as officers; as time passes, his life intersects with such figures as Davy Crockett, Sen. John C. Calhoun and President Andrew Jackson. After the Civil War, Will fritters away a fortune through wanderlust, neglect and unquenched longing for his one true love, Claire, a girl he won in a card game when they were both 12, wooed for two erotic summers in his teen years and found again several decades later. In the novel's wistful coda, recalling Claire's voice inflicts "flesh wounds of memory, painful but inconclusive"—a voice that an uncertain old Will hears in the static hiss when he answers his newfangled phone in the book's opening pages. The history that Frazier hauntingly unwinds through Will is as melodic as it is melancholy, but the sublime love story is the narrative's true heart. (Oct. 3)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics voiced great expectations for Thirteen Moons, coming nearly ten years after Charles Frazier's National Book Award-winning Cold Mountain (1997). Unfortunately, this second novel fails to achieve the same uniform critical acclaim. Certainly, similarities between the two books abound, including a deep appreciation for the Southern Appalachian landscape, a protagonist embarking on a life-defining odyssey, an elegiac tone, and swatches of excellent prose. Here, Frazier frames Will's story against America's transition from a frontier society into an industrial nation. Despite some praise, reviewers generally agree that Thirteen Moons is an "airier production" (New York Times), with perhaps more clichés, less convincing characterizations and relationships, and a less wieldy plot. What critics do agree on, however, is the excellent period detail and research that makes Frazier a first-rate chronicler of American history.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 422 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375509321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375509322
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (352 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'd never read Cold Mountain, but picked up Thirteen Moons because of the story related to the Cherokee nation. The book itself is a fictionalized rendition of the life and times of Will Thomas, known as Will Usdi (little Will) by the Cherokee. I was impressed by how much Fraizer got right about Cherokee life during those times, and how well the book was written. While the story end for the main character is dissatisfying, I think that was the point, because that chapter in Cherokee history and in the life of the actual Will Thomas was, to put it mildly, dissatisfying and tragic. But here's something to know about this exemplary author of Thirteen Moons: He worked with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation on parts of his novel, and then turned around and set up a grant to assist the Nation in translating it into the Cherokee syllabary, so that it could be used to teach Cherokee to become fluent in the language. Cherokee itself (particularly the Kituwah dialect) is a language that is in danger of becoming extinct, and is an integral part of Cherokee identity. To know one's language is to more firmly be grounded in one's identity. Anyway, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, NC, central to the Qualla Boundary of which Fraizer writes has translated copies of his chapter on the Removal from the book Thirteen Moons. On one side of the page is the Cherokee in Syllabary form, and on the opposite page it's there in phonetic spelling. Each page is labeled to correspond to the English version from the original book. This is the first major publication in Cherokee since the Bible. As a person of Cherokee heritage working these past few years to learn my own language from the Midwest, this was a blessing, to see our language in print.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Thirteen Moons marks only the second novel by Charles Frazier. Coming nine years after his blockbuster hit Cold Mountain, Thirteen Moons is also a story of mountain people but this time prior to the Civil War.

The ninety year old main character, Will Cooper, relates his long and interesting life through a series of stories. As a small child he is orphaned and eventually "bound" to the owner of a small trading post near the Cherokee reservation. Through hard work and diligence he ends up running the store and eventually buys the operation upon the owners death. At the age of 12 he wins the love of his life in a card game. He fights in the Civil War on the side of the confederacy while leading a regiment of natives Americans. He interacts with national legends such as Davy Crockett and Andrew Jackson.

Frazier doesn't admit that Will Coopers character is loosely based on the real exploits of William Holland Thomas, but he does admit that they might share some "DNA".

One of the hallmarks of Frazier's writing style is his eloquent, almost poetic prose. Even when the story lags a bit, as all stories like this do from time to time, reading his sentences, paragraphs, and pages is a joy. He reminds me a bit of another North Carolina author, though less well known, Ron Rash. Both authors have a love of the language and that is evident in how they write. Both also manage to catch of meter of how mountain folk talk and how they think. These gifts only come from having the region in your vains.

Without giving away anything, the characters that he provides us in Thirteen Moons are marvelous and provide a rich tapestry....a background and foreground on which the story plays. Perhaps the most notable is the Cherokee Bear.

The story does seem to ramble in places but this is not a critical error. You'll love reading Thirteen Moons and you'll remember the story and characters for years to come
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Format: Hardcover
I recently read an essay I'm almost sure was in NYT about slow reading. One of the reasons I read 12+ books a month is because I'm a fast reader. So it's wonderful to be able to read so many books, but the bummer is: they don't stay with me. I remember if I liked or disliked and if I dislike or am not drawn in quickly, I move on. So always on this website I will say how wonderful something is, because I don't continue with something nonwonderful. All of that being said, I read 13 Moons slowly, didn't want it to end, and adored every moment. It's a fascinating story and it takes place at a time where old old happenings have been passed down in the oral tradition. In the 1930s for example, there were many who had been slaves. Now there are only great great grandchildren of slaves. Another example and from the book: Bear, the Indian man who becomes Will's surrogate father, possesses a 250 year old metal headdress worn by a Spanish conquistador. How during the time of this novel, postmen had to be able to read Gaelic because so many Scots and Irish were in the new America and still speaking Gaelic and when mail was sent across the sea the postman had to be able to read the address. The book is chock full of these kinds of odd historical details. Another reviewer or two has given the general plot outline and done it well. Yes, as someone said, this was worth the wait. I slowed down about 40% and this is very thrilling to me--to read a novel the way I read poetry. Not just any novel, but one written so beautifully--with love and knowledge, respect and tenderness. p.s. keep a dictionary handy.
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