It was nine years between Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons; I can only hope that Charles Frazier's next novel will not require such a wait.
And when the book ends you will grieve for the loss of the world Frazier has created. But in spite of the absurdities produced by economic short-sightedness, I have every confidence that Frazier's Thirteen Moons will be read for decades to come for its beauty, its honesty and for its genuine heartfelt emotion.
In Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier, I felt submerged into the natural environment; his eloquent descriptions of wooded forests, mountain vistas, laurel thickets, and the animals that live therein evoke strong emotions, because for me it is familiar. It is land where once the Native Americans lived and freely traveled. With no family to speak of, Will is taken under Bears wing, and folded into the arms of the mountains and the lifestyle of the Indian people who live there. Historically, Frazier bases his story on the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians that evaded removal in the 1830s. For me, that illuminates what Frazier has done in this novel; he has given expression to that past world, the dying world of the Native Americans, and a way of life most of us can never know, but that our ancestors may have understood. Frazier shows the wonder of civilization as well, but on balance the world of nature, while portrayed as often harsh is more often majestic, always preferable, always home.
Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier is a book of historical fiction based on the life of William Holland Thomas (1805 - 1893). Will, an elderly man at the opening of the book, recounts his life story, from childhood to old age. The book is a fictionalized retelling of William Holland Thomas life. It is also a telling of the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of Cherokees from North Carolina, following the 1830 Indian Removal Act. On completion of the book, of course, the first thing I had to do was to read about William Holland Thomas on Wiki. Frazier captures wonderfully the language and the thoughts of an elderly Southern man. Chancer wonderfully captures the feel of the man drawn by Fraziers words.
This was likely my favorite of the year, and Ive read some great ones. When I find great fiction like this, it makes me wonder why I struggle through difficult books at times great writing can be a delight, and maybe the greatest writers understand that and have a special skill to tell a tale in a way that is informative, historical, educational, insightful and just plain entertaining. This author doesnt produce much in the way of novels, perhaps spending his time researching, reading, writing, re-writing and re-writing. 2018 for me is the year of reading great novels about Native Americans, told by white people who became integrated by odd histories. An interesting facet is the title, which the author does not explicitly explain, which I learned is based on the Cherokee device of tracking years by the 13 lunar cycles being a scientist and (woefully) ignorant of this fact of nature I was thrilled wtiht coincidence that an ordinary box turtle has a pattern on its back showing 13 sections, surrounded by a perimeter of 28 small ones. Will is a white man, but schooled himself with his Native American hero, Bear, and from time to time departed his trading post to immerse himself in Cherokee culture. Whenever I fancy writing a book of my own, less and less these days, I know I will get stuck on the fact that I will not likely achieve the greatness of a tale such as this. Great literature is obvious when you see it, I and in my older years now I just stand in awe at it, and feel gratitude, that someone used their time, energy and talent to make it happen. I learned more history of the ways of a time and place than I would ever put myself through in history books. Like other great novels, however, this one leads me to read other sources to followup on what is truly known. 141) After lovemaking in the mountains with his beloved in blissful youth: Decades later in life, deep into aching middle age, I held deeds to most of the land I then saw, all the way to the longest horizon, stacks of papers saying all that summer country was mine. Of course, I immediately hired a teacher and a preacher, nearly indistinguishable young men from Baltimore with no better prospects in life other than come to what must have seemed the ass end of creation for a rate of pay that amounted to little above room and board, and forced them to live together in a one-pen log cabin so small they shared a rope-and-tick bedstead. 296) This must be Lacrosse, but cleverly not named such as the author keeps his story entirely authentic for the time and displays humor: There were no limitations on violence other than that it was frowned upon- but not forbidden- to scratch like a woman.
The map takes him through the wilderness of the Cherokee Nation. Although forced to work at the post, a job he finds unfulfilling, it is the starting point for his real life to begin.
He does this through the life of Will Cooper, a bound boy on his own since his eleventh year and a man who eventually becomes a Chief, a laywer, a senator, a Colonel and a vast land owner. He compensates by devoting his life to the Cherokee and Bear, a clan Chief, who adopted him in his teenage years.
I can agree with this to some extent, but I still feel that Frazier should either have narrowed his focus, and made the majority of the book about the narrator's love story and young life among the Native Americans, or expanded the latter half of the book to give the events therein more significance.