“Nightwoods” is the third novel by author Charles Frazier, who won the National Book Award for the highly acclaimed Cold Mountain. His three books are entirely different, set in different eras, but share the same setting of Frazier’s beloved mountains of North Carolina.
Several people have told me they didn’t like Thirteen Moons and/or Nightwoods, finding them disappointing after the sweeping saga of Cold Mountain. I just finished Nightwoods, and I must say I liked all three of Frazier’s books. I think it’s a mistake to fall in love with the first book you read by an author and then expect — or hope — his succeeding books will follow the same theme. I like Frazier’s versatility. No matter his story line, his love for the Appalachian Mountains shines through.
There are some historical notes about the land’s native Cherokees included each time too.
In Nightwoods, we meet Luce, a strong and odd young woman who exhibits an intense respect for the land and its gifts to native people and settlers. The time period is the early 1960s, a turbulent national time to be sure, but outside events have little impact on Luce, who chooses to live a simple life apart from the small community around her.
Her life changes dramatically when the troubled young twins of her murdered sister come to live with her. Luce meets the challenges and dangers — and even a suitor — head on in her own gritty, straightforward way. You’ll cheer for this unlikely heroine to succeed with the children and against the odds hurled at her.
A reviewer for The Detroit News wrote, “Nightwoods is a mesmerizing cross between a rural noir and a suspense novel, with a taut plot that doesn’t entirely unspool until the last page.”
At only 259 pages, Nightwoods is a fast-paced, tight narrative. As is often the case with a good read, I was rushing to find out what would happen next in this suspenseful tale, but a little sorry for it to end. It will be interesting to see what type of book Frazier writes next. It’s fairly certain that whatever it is, it will be finely crafted.