Fiction. Literature. Thriller. Historical Fiction. HTML:NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Charles Frazier, the acclaimed author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons, returns with a dazzling novel set in small-town North Carolina in the early 1960s. 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. In a lean, tight narrative, Nightwoods resonates with the timelessness of a great work of art. “Impossible to shake.”—Entertainment Weekly “Fantastic.”—The Washington Post “Astute and compassionate.”—The Boston Globe.
The main character, Luce, seems to grasp this instinctually, and she accepts her minor role in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes she seems far older than she is, because of this and because of all that she has gone through in her life.
â€śThat night in bed, WLAC playing low and not helping much, Luce couldnâ€™t sleep for thinking about the black hole. She didnâ€™t spend a second wondering what creatures live down there. One look and she knew nothing lived there. Life would only be in the way. The black hole was before life and beyond life. If you dipped a ladle of that water and drank it, visions would come so dark you wouldnâ€™t want to live in the world that contained them. Youâ€™d be ready to flee toward the other darkness summed up in death, which is only distant kin to the black hole and the liquid it cups. A darkness left over from before Creation. A reminder of the time before light. Before these woods and these mountains and the earth and even the sun, there was a black hole filled with black water. The black held no reference to the green world around it. And what did the green world mean if the black was and forever had been?â€ť
The visuals in the book are amazing. Naturally, the descriptions of the woods are the most breathtaking, but even simple interior scenes are described in such a way that the reader can see and smell everything around.
â€śLuce hadnâ€™t been there since childhood, and yet not even the placement of the candy jar on the mantel had changed. The kind of place where antimacassars draped the backrests of purple velvet chairs, the seat cushions buffed to a pale silver nub by many decades of buttocks dating back nearly to the Grant administration. Bookcases everywhere, filled with leather Miltons and Burnses and Tennysons inscribed on the endpapers with the beautiful looping handwriting of dead people.â€ť
This is not to say that nothing happens in â€śNightwoodsâ€ť. Far from it. The most heinous of human sins take place in these woods, in this small town.
â€śHours into the climb, scenery loses its attraction. Itâ€™s nothing but ten feet of dirt and leaves in front of his aching feet. Bud is bored and thinking about violence, but trying not to, because violence is best accomplished spur-of-the-moment. Let it happen out of nowhere. Anything else, and you go from being a hothead manslaughterer to nothing but a cold first-degree murderer. Act with great purity â€“ like thereâ€™s no past and no future, nothing but the red right now â€“ and thereâ€™s a degree of innocence to it, no matter how heinous and bloody the outcome.â€ť
There is a heroine, a villain, and many people in between. And yet even then, there is a sense of quiet. Quiet desperation, quiet grief, quiet hopelessness. The emotions are strong, the actions are fierceâ€¦but the results seem to be muffled over time.
â€śNightwoodsâ€ť is a series of terrible events in the lives of its human inhabitants, but the reader closes the book that over time, all will be smoothed over and resume its place in the stillness of this eternal forest.
This kind of storytelling leaves me scratching my head and flipping back through the book to see if I missed something. (It also has me wondering whether the author chose to relate action to the reader in this way because he couldn't figure out how to actually write the scene where the critical interactions occur.) Frazier is talented enough to pull off these sudden transitions in a way that's not as aggravating as it might be, but I did still feel cheated out of critical parts of an otherwise beautifully told story.
Luce lives by herself in an old lodge that was built as a summer retreat. When the owner died, she took it upon herself to act as caretaker.
She inherits her murdered sister's twins. She feels that
This is an example of Naturalism in literature when heredity and the character's environment predetermine the course of action for the character with little that the character could do to change their outcome.
Bud is the children's father and a cold blooded killer. He reminded me of the wonderful character Anton Chiguth from "No Country for Old Men."
As his path and that of Luce and the twins begins to converge, the suspense mounts and the book is hard to put down.
Charles Frazier is a wonderful author and this novel reaffirms his place as one of the best novelists working today.
It is a dark story. It made me sad. Our main character, Luce, is a common sense kind of person. I was drawn to her immediately. I wanted better for Luce, who has taken on an undeserved burden. Luce has not had an easy life, but she was now living a quiet life by herself away from the crowds as the caretaker of an old lodge in the rural North Carolina mountains, until she is given custody of the two feral children of her recently murdered sister. They are not only feral but pyromaniacs of a bad sort. And then on top of that, the sick twisted murderer, her sister's husband "Bud", gets a "get out of jail free" card and comes a lookin. Not a sweet story. Many people, in their lives, take on undeserved burdens. So this appeared to be Luce's burden and story. Luce had a simple outlook on life, which we are told early on: "All her life, the main lesson Luce had learned was that you couldn't count on anybody. So she guessed you could work hard to make yourself who you wanted to be and yet find that the passing years had transformed you beyond your own recognition. End up disappointed in yourself, despite your best efforts."
At first I had to force myself to read this book slow. It would be all too easy to read this in a rush, because the story pulls one into it powerfully. But I wanted to drink in this writing. I wanted to keep the taste on my mental tongue and savor it. But the book itself sort of slowed itself down and it was easy to read a chapter or two at a time and reflect before picking the story back up.
The book had such a dark tone to it that the romance that came in the second part of the novel surprised me and was a good touch. More than that. So what exactly was this story? We have wonderful descriptions of a rural off the track life and environment. But is this just another "bad things happen to good people" story? For a good part of the story I rather disliked the two children who more or less upended Luce's life. Their good for nothing father was pure scum. I eventually gained a bit of sympathy for the children when they finally began to open up. There are some well drawn supporting characters in the novel also. In some small way this dark powerful novel pleased me. I think maybe this story tells us that even in dark times there can be an unfailing spirit. We can pull up strength to persevere and even transform ourselves. This book is going to be in my head for a long time. Recommended.
I received an ARC of Nightwoods through the LibraryThing early reviewer program. I do not think this influenced my review.
Nightwoods is the story of Luce, a young woman whose personal life was marked by tragedy and bad family relationships. She agrees to become the caretaker of an old, abandoned lodge in the North Carolina mountains - a place where she can be alone and away from people who inevitably hurt her. Tragically, Luce's sister was murdered, and the state wants to place her sister's twins into Luce's care. When the twins arrive, Luce knows she has her work cut out for her. The twins, Dolores and Frank, won't say a word and have a liking to starting fires. Luce, once alone and carefree, must now accept her fate as a guardian of very troubled children.
Luce's situation is compounded when her sister's husband (and murderer) arrives in town, looking for money that he believes Luce is in possession of. Bud is a no-good, violent man, and Luce knows he'll stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Frazier's superb writing style is in full force throughout Nightwoods. The reader gets a look at North Carolina mountain life - the good, bad and ugly. Unfortunately, I felt Frazier went to some extremes with his characters, especially the twins and their adventure during the last chapters of the book. As a fan of character-driven stories, this was a disappointment for me. But I am happy that Frazier seems to be on his game again, as Nightwoods is certainly a better story than Thirteen Moons.
So if you loved Cold Mountain like me, go ahead and get a copy of Nightwoods. Know it's not perfect - but sit back and lavish in the wonderful writing of Charles Frazier.
Frazier throws in a number of secondary characters for good measure: Maddie, the neighbor who doles out homespun wisdom and folk medicine; Stubblefield, who loved Luce as a boy and finds that he loves her still; Lit, Luce's drug-addicted lawman father who befriends the killer, Bud. But to me, the book, while enjoyable, was full of clichĂ©s, both in characters and in plot. Frazier can and has done better. I'm still hoping for a novel that comes close to his Cold Mountain.
Bud, her murderous brother-in-law, thinks the children have taken a large amount of cash that he had stolen, so he follows them to the small town. There he takes over the local pill-pusher's business and strikes up an odd friendship with the police chief. There is not a lot of subtlety to Bud's character; this is one of the book's primary failings.
Events progress to an end that seems inevitable, but is somehow lacking in its depiction. Frazier wants to imbue it with a mystical quality but doesn't quite succeed. He does succeed quite well, however, in using well chosen language and structure to establish and support his tone of menace and mystery. The lack of precise details--we don't know exactly where we are, how old the characters are, etc.--enhances the sense of fable. Overall a very nice read.
This was a really great read, with the author revealing the charactersâ€™ pasts bit by bit, allowing the reader to totally understand and sympathize with the characters. This book has plenty of blood, trauma, and murder, but the other descriptions have this amazing gentleness, reflecting the way Luce welcomes the children into her quiet, solitary lifestyle in nature. The story is good, but the style of writing is truly unique and well worth the experience. Charles Frazier is an accomplished writer, allowing the reader to appreciate the beauty of the wilderness.
The other significant character is the setting, the mountains of western North Carolina and other areas of the South, from the 1960s. Maybe this is why I enjoyed the novel so much â€“ that is the South of my childhood, and it rang true and vivid for me.
Much better, in my opinion, that Frazierâ€™s Cold Mountain or Thirteen Moons. It is violent, but the ending is much more satisfactory than his earlier novels. Highly recommended.
I highly recommend reading Nightwoods for the story, the prose and the talented craftsmanship Frazier draws upon to create this work of art.
I would describe Luce as the type of person I would personally want to hang out with, if she were real, that is. As uncomfortable as she is in her own skin, she never once compromises herself and her values for those around her. Her voice is authentic and rings from page one. I felt myself identifying with her and her plight, keeping me entranced by the story as I desperately turned the pages to find out what happened next in her life.
Charles Frazier is a favorite author of mine, and this book does not disappoint. With a rich story and Frazierâ€™s remarkable talents as a storyteller, the story is a canâ€™t miss tale that takes you to Appalachia and surrounds you immediately with rich prose and an amazing story. And I loved trying the bacon with popcorn mentioned in the book. That alone is worth some praise.
I enjoyed Cold Mountain tremendously but it wasn't until Thirteen Moons that I really came to understand just how talented he is. I was absolutely delighted to receive Nightwoods through the Early Readers program. Although I signed up for others, this is the ONE I wanted and I was not disappointed. Thank you LT!
There are other characters in the book who come to be integral to the story: Maddie, a spinster lady with a horse name Sally; the younger Stubblefield, a man Luce's age who has come home to see what his father has left him (among other things the Lodge); Lit, Luce's estranged father and the drug abusing sheriff of the town; Bud, the twins' father and Luce's sister's husband, who is an ex-con hellbent on finding the money Luce's sister hid from him.
Although much of the novel is bleak, there is hope - for Luce, for Stubblefield, for the twins.