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Brilliant,
Pointless,
Dramatic

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Nightwoods: A Novel
by Charles Frazier

Published: 2011-09-27
Hardcover : 272 pages
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The extraordinary author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons returns with a dazzling new novel of suspense and love set in small-town North Carolina in the early 1960s. Charles Frazier puts his remarkable gifts in the service of a lean, taut narrative while losing none of the transcendent...
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Introduction

The extraordinary author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons returns with a dazzling new novel of suspense and love set in small-town North Carolina in the early 1960s.
 
Charles Frazier puts his remarkable gifts in the service of a lean, taut narrative while losing none of the transcendent prose, virtuosic storytelling, and insight into human nature that have made him one of the most beloved and celebrated authors in the world. Now, with his brilliant portrait of Luce, a young woman who inherits her murdered sister's troubled twins, Frazier has created his most memorable heroine.
 
Before the children, Luce was content with the reimbursements of the rich Appalachian landscape, choosing to live apart from the small community around her. But the coming of the children changes everything, cracking open her solitary life in difficult, hopeful, dangerous ways.
 
Charles Frazier is known for his historical literary odysseys, and for making figures in the past come vividly to life. Set in the twentieth century, Nightwoods resonates with the timelessness of a great work of art.

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.



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Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

"A Southern gothic narrative that's strong on characters and backwoods atmosphere but undermined by literary affectation.

Though the third novel by Frazier(Thirteen Moons,2006, etc.) makes occasional reference toThunder Road,it could inspire a movie as gripping as another with Robert Mitchum,The Night of the Hunter,which also finds two small children fleeing from a dangerous man with a murky past.In this novel, set a half-century ago, the children are orphaned by the murder of their mother and are sent to live with her sister, once the beauty of a small Southern town, now squatting on the grounds of an abandoned lodge at the edge of the mountains. The man in pursuit of the children is Bud, their stepfather and likely their mother's murderer, though he was acquitted of the crime. He knows that the children saw somethingand might have something he wants, maybe a lot of money.But they don't talk. Or won't talk. Or can't talk. They're almost feral (and certainly pyromaniacs) as well as mute, discovers Luce, their aunt and now their caretaker, who "didn't even really like the children, much less love them. But she loved Lily [her murdered sister] and would raise the children and not be trash." While generally staying within the minds of the characters, the prose occasionally takes literary flight to jarring effect: "Lifeless as these woods are now, all the blood must flow in summertime, whereas Jesus's blood covers the world every day of the year." Or, in Luce's impressions of a sunset: "Expressed as art, the colors would lay on canvas entirely unnatural and sentimental, and yet they were a genuine manifestation of place many evenings in fall." Frazier's characters aren't as likely to think like that as the novelist is.When he tempers his tendency toward filigree and lets his bare-boned, hard-boiled plot progress, the novel packs a devastating punch.

Where his debut (Cold Mountain, 1997) won the literary lottery as an award-winning popular blockbuster, this suggests that Frazier is more than a one-hit wonder."--Kirkus reviews

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Lack of character connection"by camwhite (see profile) 03/06/12

I found that I didn't connect or feel for any of the characters in this book and that the writer, while sometimes using colorful descriptions, wondered aimlessly as far as the story went. I would not... (read more)

 
  "Nightwoods by Charles Frazier"by youngkate (see profile) 02/22/12

Excellent choice for book club reading; lots to discuss. Mr. Frazier does a great job of character building and story telling.

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