Thirteen Moons: A Novel

by Charles Frazier

Hardcover, 2006

Call number




Random House (2006), Edition: 1st, 422 pages


At the age of twelve, under the Wind moon, Will is given a horse, a key, and a map, and sent alone into the Indian Nation to run a trading post as a bound boy. It is during this time that he grows into a man, learning, as he does, of the raw power it takes to create a life, to find a home. In a card game with a white Indian named Featherstone, Will wins a mysterious girl named Claire. As Will's destiny intertwines with the fate of the Cherokee Indians, including a Cherokee Chief named Bear, he learns how to fight and survive in the face of both nature and men, and eventually, under the Corn Tassel Moon, Will begins the fight against Washington City to preserve the Cherokee's homeland and culture. And he will come to know the truth behind his belief that only desire trumps time.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member silva_44
This book reminded me a great deal of Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose, in regard to an aging narrator recounting his life in the most beautiful prose imaginable. Thirteen Moons is an absolutely phenomenal story, told by one of the most interesting and believable narrators that I have had the
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privilege of sharing a text with in a long while. I listened to the book on tape, and I found myself almost mesmerized by the story of Will Cooper, and his foibles and triumphs. I have always loved Indian stories, but this one seemed so real, and no account of Indian peoples I have ever read has seemed so realistic. I love the way that the narrator is so transparent about his life, and I also love his (Charles Frazier's really) command of the language. Some of the lines made me want to weep. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in reading an epic tale of love, loss, and the displacement of a nation.
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LibraryThing member anterastilis
Thirteen Moons is Charles Frazier's sophomore novel, the first being the highly acclaimed Cold Mountain (which I never read, or saw the movie). After reading a recent few disappointing sophomore novels, I was a bit nervous to start in on this one.

I had no reason to be nervous. I loved it. Frazier's
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writing style is just beautiful: evocative, simple without oversimplifying, and concise. Nothing felt unnecessary or uneven.

This is the story of Will Cooper, who was sent (at the age of twelve) to the edge of the Cherokee nation to run a trading post. He starts out with just his horse and a key to the store, and builds a life from there. The people in his life are beautifully drawn: Bear, his Cherokee surrogate father; Claire, who he wins in a card game when they are both 12 years old; Featherstone, owner of a nearby plantation. Will's story is told from his late-in-life perspective, with the pragmatic feeling of a man who lived through history and doesn't sugarcoat it or romanticize anything. The stark tale against the lush background of the mountains and the characterization - dang, it was just about perfect.

I hope that he writes more novels along these lines. I'll probably pick up Cold Mountain at some point and read that, as well.
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LibraryThing member beserene
Very satisfying. I don't read a whole lot of historical fiction, but my father had actually recommended this to me, and I put a lot of stock in his good opinion. I was not disappointed. Frazier has a detailed yet personal style that suits the historical (which is an obvious point, considering the
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awards that 'Cold Mountain' won), and here he has composed a first-person narrative that not only supports the level of detail, but also manages to be witty, quick, and compelling. Those who have turned away from truly well-researched historical fiction because some authors have a tendency to let the story get bogged down in the research may find that Frazier is a worthy second chance -- he seems to have achieved a balance that others struggle with. Frazier is careful, in his acknowledgments, to remind the reader that his work is fiction, that it is not a biography of William Thomas (a real historical figure who did many of the things that Frazier's fictional narrator, Will Cooper, does for the Cherokee people in the novel), but the level of realism and, in fact, historical truth (which was verified by my father, who has read and researched more on the Cherokee than anyone I know) is never the less impressive. What's more, this is just a good story. There is adventure, love lost and gained and (sort of spoiler) lost again, friendship, life and death struggles, and all the ups and downs that a good yarn should have. There are a few questions of pacing -- after the detail of the first two-thirds, the last part of the book seems a little too skimpy, though there is a logical reason for the skips that are made -- but overall this is a well-constructed narrative and an enjoyable (not quick and fluffy, but genuinely enjoyable the way a good cup of really hot tea is enjoyable) read.
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LibraryThing member lyzadanger
With a vivid sense of place and history, Frazier's second work in many ways is more charming and entwining than his first (Cold Mountain), more personal and engaging. Eulogizing the mountain home of the Cherokees in engrossing language throughout the novel, Frazier's narrator frames the plot with
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the land itself at all times. The novel is tactile, visual. But not just setting.

Frazier's protagonist is an interesting, remarkably sensitive orphan who effectively builds himself alone, starting from age 12, when he is thrust into the wilderness by an alarmingly disaffected aunt and uncle with little more than a key and a vague map. Heck, they didn't even have maps for the place he was supposed to go--a frontier trading post, to which he is bound (again by the unscrupulous family members) for seven years.

Here in this shack-store not even within American boundaries, he builds a life woven of the southern Appalachian landscape and the local Cherokees. He is adopted as a son by Bear, a sweet and lamentable elder. He meets a girl who smells like lavender, briefly, and falls terrifically in love.

But, as all things for the Cherokee went in the 1830s (bad), so do a lot of things here. Expect love and beauty and sinuous plot, but not joy. Frazier's pace through the first half or two-thirds of the novel crescendos in a page-turner fashion, dragging you, the spectator, through many phases of the thirteen moons along with the characters. You see lovely things. Brief and beleaguered happiness. Knowing nothing good will come of this.

The last third of the novel feels like a dirge, winding down after an action-packed denouement. The greatest flaw of this story is its unwillingness to stop. You keep tumbling through the protagonist's life until you wonder what you're headed toward. Pain outweighs optimism at every turn. Each happiness leads to fifteen sorrows.

A beautiful book. Well worth reading and savoring. Expect to feel the mountains around you, dripping on you. Don't expect redemption.
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LibraryThing member PallanDavid
I do not remember ever being more emotionally moved on a personal level from any other book, And I've read many! This is purely fiction; none of the main characters existed; they are figments of imagination placed within historical situations. For me, the story is generally interesting - tells a
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tale of a group of Cherokee's who were able to thwart relocation (The Trail of Tears) with the help of an old Cherokee who understood legal aspects of land ownership - so he outright bought and held deeds on a thousand acres of land; along with his "adopted" son, who becomes a lawyer, travels to Washington City and for years keeps this group of Cherokee's on their land through legal wrangling.
There is a lot of travel in this saga. The travels of the main character, Will, on horseback, carriage... rail road.... and the descriptions are wonderful! I know a bit of the southern states in which this is all taking place, and even though it is no longer open pasture and forest as it was over 100 years ago, the bones of what is described are still there.
The lives of the Cherokee are much discussed. As is the intermixing of the people - Cherokee and "white"; most often, it seems, the Scot's who settled in the South and often lived harmonious lived with the native inhabitants. Racial issues are discussed and are as unclear in this book as they were/are in life - then and now.
The emotional part was realizing at the end, there was a life long and seemingly fully lived, but never personally fulfilled. Other's I know who have read this did not see or feel what I did. But I stand by my verdict. Whether Mr Frazier intended to, or not, I see ultimately a story of a life unfulfilled.
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LibraryThing member emilyhill
This one was a struggle to get through. I didn't enjoy it very much
LibraryThing member coyle220
I enjoyed the first half of this novel very much, learning about Cherokee Indian culture and relationships with white men on the territory borders. Wonderful descriptions of the land and wilderness survival. The voice of Will Cooper, who tells his interesting story from age 12 to age 80 , is
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strong... until he gets carried away with reminscinces about his love Claire. I feel the love story began to overwhelm the adventure story.
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LibraryThing member sallyanny
I am usually not much of a romance novel reader, but I was curious because it is based in the south during a period of history that interests me, best of all Native American history. This book is so unique and so well written. It captures you and transports you back in time. I have nothing but
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praise for this author's style and his ability to craft a story well worth reading. On my reading list now is Cold Mountain which I previous disregarded due to it's romance factor.
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LibraryThing member TanyaTomato
Beautifully written prose, and style. The author did a fantastic job transporting me back in time. I thought that the process of growing older, and the feelings associated were well portrayed.
LibraryThing member DannyMorris
Beautifully written but the story is not as compelling as Cold Mountain.
LibraryThing member ethelmertz
I was excited to read Frazier's new book because Cold Mountain is near to my heart. I enjoyed this book. It was a good yarn, but it didn't connect to my heart the way Cold Mountain did.
LibraryThing member wickedlibrarian
I really loved the book Cold Mountain by this author, and I couldn't wait to read this, his most recent book. I love the way Frazier tells this tale; a comfortable, slow, but beautifully painted story of one man's epic lifetime. Shuffled off as a boy to make his own life, the Native Americans who
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adopted him, his horse, and the woman he was to love so intensely all of his life only to lose her. Her memory haunts him still, as an old man shuffling around his house, hearing her voice on the newly-installed telephone.
And I should have known going into it that, being a Frazier book, it wasn't going to end on exactly a high note. But like Cold Mountain, it did at least end with some amount of hope, and satisfaction.
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LibraryThing member tcrutch
This is not the type of book I normally select - I consider it a "guy book". However, I was plesantly suprised with the plot. I live near the location where the book takes place and I have to say, Frazier paints a fairly accurate picture of what Western North Carolina was like at the time.
LibraryThing member wisewoman32
Good look at pre-war North Carolina. Very brief treatment of the CW. Ended on a dark note.
LibraryThing member co_coyote
I can already tell this is going to be one of my top five books for all of 2008. If it's not, I can't imagine the wonders awaiting me. Charles Frazier is not only a wonderful storyteller, but his ability to cause me to pause and read passages over and over again, just for the music of the words,
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and the powerful emotions they evoke in me is extraordinary. I savored this book, and I might well read it again this year, just to experience its delights for another few hours.

Set in the mid-nineteenth century, it tells the story of Will Cooper, an orphaned boy, and the Cherokee Nation that takes him in as one of its own. It is a story of heartbreak and triumph, as I suppose all good novels are. But I found it to be a most personal story, too. Meaningful to me in ways that still aren't clear to me. An amazing book, and one that could easily find its way onto my Top Ten of All Time favorites.
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LibraryThing member gwendolyndawson
Will Cooper narrates his own story in retrospect, beginning with his days as an orphaned, literate "bound boy" and ending nearly nine decades later. This was an interesting story but pretty unoriginal and too long.
LibraryThing member Sean191
To me this book seemed like a grown-up version of Huck Finn. The story is told right from the first person and the setting is a bit far back (the narrator is born about 3 or 4 decades pre-civil war).

It's a love story, it's a story of a yearning for power, for the preservation of tradition and
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all-in-all, a highly recommended read.
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LibraryThing member lynsbro
Excellernt,a wonderful portrait of a nation in the making,and the sad tale of the Native Americans' sacrifice to progress(!?) and greed
LibraryThing member edwin.gleaves
Beautifully written novel by the author of Cold Mountain.
LibraryThing member mojomomma
Covers the life of Will Cooper who was apprenticed out by his aunt and uncle to run a trading post in Indian territory. He was eventually adopted by the chief of the local tribe, Bear and lived his life as an Indian and spokesman for the Cherokee. He assisted his tribe by helping them understand
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American laws and government and politics and was able to keep them on their land while other tribes were removed to Oklahoma.
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LibraryThing member santhony
I felt that Cold Mountain was an outstanding work of fiction. I was somewhat surprised in that I don't normally care for award winning literary works. Cold Mountain, however, was so beautifully written and captivating that I would rate it as one of my favorite books.

For that reason, I was looking
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forward to seeing what Charles Frazier would do for an encore. It is easy to be disappointed when a successor doesn't measure up to the original, but in this case, how could it? Viewed on its own, Thirteen Moons is a very good work and displays much of the same outstanding writing found in Cold Mountain. The setting was quite original as well and in my opinion enhanced the work.

The premise involves a very elderly narrator looking back upon his time among the Cherokee Indians of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains in the early 19th century. As a young man, he was sold as an indentured servant to a businessman who placed him in charge of a frontier trading post. It was here that he fell in with and was essentially adopted by the adjacent Native Americans. Thirteen Moons is his recollection of his time among the natives and his efforts to acquire and hold onto the ancestral property of his adopted tribe, efforts which involved training as a lawyer and acting as a lobbyist among D.C. lawmakers and policy setters in the time leading up to and encompassing the Trail of Tears.

As in Cold Mountain, Frazier's writing is haunting and filled with imagery of the surrounding countryside. It can certainly be said that at times the action drags, but I can never say that I became bored or anxious for something to happen. I was at all times captivated by the prose and the underlying story line. The thread involving the love of his life, Claire, was simply outstanding as it wove its way in and out of the novel. The love/hate relationship with Featherstone was magnificently presented as were the father/son moments between Will and Bear. All in all, a very worthy successor to Cold Mountain. I eagerly await Frazier's next effort.
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LibraryThing member Talbin
Although Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier is evocative and beautifully written, I have had a very difficult time finishing the book. It is the story of Will Cooper, whose life spanned the time from the beginning of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. During that time, Cooper
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lived with - and was adopted by - the Cherokee Indians of North Carolina - and lived through the birth and new growth of the nation. Cooper loved Clare, the wife of one of his adopted Cherokee fathers, and followed her throughout his life.

I think this book could have been much more effective if either Frazier had focused on Cooper's relationship with his two adoptive "fathers" (both Cherokee, both extremely different), or had narrowed in on Cooper's relationship with Clare. As it was, I thought the book lost its way once Clare followed the Trail of Tears and we - as readers - followed Cooper around his fairly boring middle-aged pursuits. Nonetheless, the Frazier does an extraordinary job of describing a time and a place that is lost in history.
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LibraryThing member BriarRose72
Frazier's Thirteen Moons is, ultimately, the story of a man in all his human frailty. Will Cooper narrates his exploits retrospectively, as an old man, which lends wit and candor to his story, as well as a very particular insight into what it is to be human. This, coupled with Frazier's lovely
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descriptive imagery (I could drink his words) and a quality of haunting poignance renders Thirteen Moons a brilliant read.
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LibraryThing member wispywillow
This audiobook kept me fine company during my last week or so of commuting to school. The narrator is a man I'd never heard of before--and I can't imagine him doing well with anything that wasn't Western, but he did well with this. Actually, the character he played was from the
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South--Tennessee--but the reader has more of a Western drawl, I think. No matter. The drawl worked well, as did the age in the voice. Reminded me a lot of my friend Colt.

The story is set long ago, and it just has this... feel to it that I can't explain... an atmosphere. America has just barely begun to form. Native Americans still live on their lands, though by this time most of them have adapted to the influx of white people. The Trail of Tears hasn't yet happened.

The protagonist is a white orphan who is sent into Cherokee territory for some reason or another, and he is soon taken in by a man named Bear. Will begins to learn the Cherokee language--which is a good deal more complex than English, actually, something I didn't know. The language has many more tenses.

Will grows up throughout the story, and there is your typical lost love plot. Sometimes he seems a wee bit high and mighty, but overall it is an excellent story. Very sad, very long...and it has a deep feel to it... it feels like the South, like Tennessee. Yes. I'm realizing it now... that deep, slightly sad but proud vibe that runs in the Tennessee hills is captured in this story.
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LibraryThing member NanceJ
This book was okay, but I remember being really disappointed at the end.




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