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Thirteen Moons: A Novel Paperback – June 5, 2007
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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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
There are more than a few reviewers who have criticized this novel for the same reason that I praise it, and it could be that those readers weren't looking to sit down and "smell the roses" of some truly beautiful descriptions of scenes, feelings and situations, as this is the most savory writing I've come across in a very long time. The author truly seems to enable the reader to inhabit this lost world, and that's a sign not just of talent, but of outstanding commitment to a sense of place and time, serving to remind anyone interested in writing fiction that setting is more than just a background -- when done with such precision, it's a character in itself.
Will is a dynamic character who literally grows up as an eyewitness to a tragic period of American history. While Frazier could have easily fallen into the disappointing "noble savage" theme that all too often characterizes attempts at stories centered on indigenous people, he has instead taken the time to breathe life, noble and ignoble, into the Cherokee characters. (I adored Bear.) The historical research is so meticulous and this era is so painstakingly created that, with the exception of actual eyewitness accounts, I daresay there's very little else that truly invites the reader to examine and inhabit this period of history in such detail.
Will is a character who truly grows and changes in his attitudes, actions and worldviews over the course of the novel. The love story is a bit less finely-drawn, as the character of Claire never seems fully developed, and the reader never truly knows how she feels about Will, how she feels about her husband, or even how she really feels about removal, despite the fact that she is among the removed. As a whole, female characters don't seem to be Charles Frazier's strong suit -- characters like Will here and Inman in "Cold Mountain" have always felt more real and relatable to me than have any of his women, with the possible exception of Ada Monroe in "Mountain."
A glorious effort I was truly sorry to see end. I bookmarked many passages and will no doubt be reading "Thirteen Moons" more than once over the years.
This historically based novel has it all...life, love, adventure, sadness, and war. Exhaustive research my the master story-teller Charles Frazier reveals the life stories of the four main characters in the midst of a young nation's growing pains.
And what a great movie it could be!
Also let me mention the audio version, read by Will Patton. Like I said above, I have listened to it seven times...now going on eight. Will is the best at his trade.
Advice: Purchase the UNABRIDGED version of the audio, which contains 13 CDs. The abridged version has only 5.
While not Shakespearean it's a tradgedy. I'm normally the kind of guy who wants more civil war and Indians but I couldn't help but be taken in by the subtle changes Will undergoes as he matures from a young boy to an old man. His first encounter with Claire as a young teenager is just as charming as his introduction to the telephone when he is near ancient. The latter scene is priceless. The pace slows in the second half and you will undoubtedly be frustrated by some of Will's decisions but that's what makes a ballgame. You won't find action and adventure on every page but you will find something memorable. And you will be long haunted by the memory of an aging Will Cooper living with the choices he made as a younger man.